More friends, more interactions? The association between network size and interactions on Facebook

Joanna C. Yau, Stephanie M. Reich, Yiran Wang, Melissa Niiya, Gloria Mark


With social networking sites (SNS) such as Facebook, individuals have immediate access to hundreds of people from different aspects of their lives. On one hand, this may increase the number of people that individuals can interact with directly because communication now requires less effort. On the other hand, individuals may still only interact with a small portion of their networks because humans have limited time and resources. Mayhew and Levinger (1976) proposed that because of time and resource constraints, individuals in larger networks spend, on average, less time with each contact. Thus, while people may have opportunities through Facebook to interact with more people, they may not actually do so. Using logging software, we explored the percentage of their Facebook network that individuals sent direct messages to and whether individuals with larger networks sent direct messages to a smaller percentage of their networks. We found that in line with Mayhew and Levinger’s claim, users messaged a very small percentage of their networks (less than two percent) and that users with larger friend networks sent messages to a smaller percentage of their friend networks. This suggests that while Facebook may enable users to connect with more people than ever before, there are still limits to the number of ties with whom individuals actively interact.


Facebook; social networking sites; network size

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