Social Media and the Friendship Paradox

How many friends do you have on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.? Do you ever compare your numbers with those of your friends – only to find that they have many more AND seem to be having a lot more fun that you? What’s wrong with your (or me) that makes us less than our friends? How do they get to have so much fun?  OR…maybe, it’s all just a big ‘ol paradox.

Social Media and the Friendship Paradox

My goal today is to teach you a new word that I learned while scanning the list of blogs I follow via Feedly. Steve Boese wrote an article on September 14, 2015 titled, Learn a New Word: The Friendship Paradox.  In this article, Steve discussed the likelihood that we find ourselves seeing all of the great posts, pictures, events, and overall fun things that our social media connections do on any day – but especially so on the weekend.The Friendship Paradox

Steve quotes a recent article by Allen Downey called The Inspection Paradox is Everywhere:

In 1991, Scott Feld presented the “friendship paradox”: the observation that most people have fewer friends than their friends have.  He studied real-life friends, but the same effect appears in online networks: if you choose a random Facebook user, and then choose one of their friends at random, the chance is about 80% that the friend has more friends.

The friendship paradox is a form of the inspection paradox.  When you choose a random user, every user is equally likely.  But when you choose one of their friends, you are more likely to choose someone with a lot of friends.  Specifically, someone with x friends is overrepresented by a factor of x.

Do the numbers REALLY matter?

The first sentence of this article asked about not just what your friends do but also if you compared yourself to the number of friends of your friends. With Twitter I am 100% guilty of this! I admit it. I am 100% without a doubt guilty of looking to see how many followers I have.  I even watch my Klout score…just not as much I would have three years ago.

Social Media Numbers

Image courtesy of

How many of us do this on Instagram, Pinterest, etc.?  Do you add people for the sake of adding or do you add them for a true connection of some sort?


Does a highly engaged following of 500 provide less of an impact than a non-engaged following of 5,000?  

I wanted to know the answer to the following question: why is it important to some people to have a lot of social media followers?

So, I did what most of us would do – I Googled it.

I expected the top results to be a list of self-help or something of the type articles discussing social media and the negative/positive impacts it has on society. Guess what? I was wrong…WAY wrong.

The top results included articles explaining why followers were important or how to increase your followers by X in Y days. (See picture)

Social Media and the Friendship Paradox

Do the numbers really matter? I guess that it depends on your POV and overall purpose of using social media.

Back to the Paradox

Maybe the numbers or the activities don’t matter. Could it be that, to someone else, WE…you and me…are the ones who are having all the fun? Don’t believe me? How can that be, you ask? It’s impossible, you say?

I can’t explain it…it’s a paradox.


To read Steve’s entire article about the Friendship Paradox, click here.


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