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Knowing Friendship Paradox to Engage with Facebook

Social Media User-illustration photo

Here is my essay about Friendship Paradox in Facebook's network typography. I want to make a point that there is a need for the user to understand a Friendship Paradox before signing up for a Facebook account and interacting in a new network topography.

Since it was found in 2004, Facebook recently had reached 1.3 billion active users in 2014[1]. Thus it became one of the largest social media in the world. This enormous number was reached because Facebook had made it easier to connect with relatives, friends or new friends around the world. The interface was enriched with some easy tools for us to access. We do not need to wait some minutes longer just to add friends, to comment, to post text, picture or video. In turn, your online friends from around the world can response to these posting just in second.

Those Facebook tools enable us to get more friends. It might made us to be a socialized person. A socialized person is able to get out from his loneliness and is having fully interaction to fulfill his basic need. As it is said, “We can’t not to communicate.” Thus, Facebook might have replaced phone, made us closer to each other and cut the time length for an effective communication process. Thus, social media can help us to get out of isolation. It also makes us to be more active in social activities.[2] So it is quite reasonable to assume Facebook can be used to improve the quality of life especially the need to communicate.  

Apparently, Facebook is the best solution for our need to communicate. In the other word, it become smart answers for our interaction crisis. Shortly, it was said Facebook can make you a happy figure. However, I think it is too naive of the short conclusion. Because, I can recall one of my friends who still felt unhappy although she had more friends on her friends list. She sometime complains about her life. Meanwhile, it is commonly known that some users are bullying each other which probably indicates unhappiness. Sometimes, I feel jealous with other friends who have more comments on his picture than mine.

At first, I thought it was normal when we felt envy after seeing our friends get engaged or felt jealous when our relative gets his new dream car. We even got mad when suddenly our roommates got more comments after posting his picture two hours ago. It seems to be a natural behavior that a person gets confused and disappointed when others has more friends or belongings than his. In my opinion, Facebook could also made us as an unhappy person.

We become unhappy to see our friend’s happiness. It is quite weird feeling though. However, a recent study done by the Department of Behavioral Science at the Utah Valley University found that active Facebook users are actually not as happy as we think. In contrast, based on the research, Facebook even makes us to view the life more negatively. Around 400 students questioned, they said, "Those who have used Facebook longer agreed more that others were happier, and agreed less that life is fair, and those spending more time on Facebook each week agreed more that others were happier and had better lives.”[3]

It is quite surprising that Facebook also make us sad beside a happiness. This sadness was probably caused by a negative feeling that popped up after spending time on screen to notice our friend’s wall. I think this might come to a fact since a team of psychologists from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and the University of Leuven in Belgium found that Facebook had greater influence with a low sense of well-being. The team found that more users got their life satisfaction decreased after spending much time on Facebook over two-weeks. They said. “Rather than enhancing well-being, these findings suggest that Facebook may undermine it.”[4]

Probably, one major reason of the unhappiness is because we might think that our online friends look happier than us. We strangely felt unhappy although we started joining Facebook earlier than them. Later, I found that the unhappy feeling as an effect that might be caused by 'Friendly world syndrome'.  This syndrome expressed that our friends have more friends than us.

It was actually a paradox in the network topology. It was also called Friendship paradox. A Research by Young-Ho Eom at the University of Toulouse in France and Hang-Hyun Jo at Aalto University in Finland said, “The paradox arises because numbers of friends people have are distributed in a way that follows a power law rather than an ordinary linear relationship. So most people have a few friends while a small number of people have lots of friends. [5] They added, “Later, the small group causes the paradox when they number among our friends in the first place and then the raise the average number of our friends have. That is why our friends have more friends than us on average.”[6]

Moreover, the syndrome made us perceive that everyone out there is happier than we are and they are far more popular.[7] Young-Ho Eom and Hang-Hyun Jo at Aalto University in Finland also said, “Your friends probably were richer than you were. Later, they call this syndrome as the “generalized friendship paradox” which stated that our friends probably were richer and happier than we were.”[8]

However, they said this was a paradox in network topography which means those who felt unhappy were actually the same with other users. Young-Ho and Hyun J said, “ So if you’re an active Facebook user feeling inadequate and unhappy because your friends seem to be doing better than you are, remember that almost everybody else on the network is in a similar position.”

Based on the exploration above, I want to conclude that to engage with Facebook is not a guarantee for a happy interaction. Facebook activity can also make you sad. Especially for the user who newly joined the Facebook and imagined for a happy life. It is better to know about Friendship Paradox. As you feel unhappy someday because your friends is happier and popular, you should just relax and take a deep breath. You know that it is normal because there are many people actually in your position.   

In my opinion, by knowing this paradox will also help us to behave in other superfast and interactive social media. Understanding the network typography and knowing the influence will enable us to wisely use social media with different format in the future. 

[1] “Facebook: figures of monthly active users 2008-2014.”Statista. 2015. Retrieved January 22, 2015, from http://www.statista.com/statistics/264810/number-of-monthly-active-facebook-users-worldwide/.
[2] “11 Reasons Why People Love and Use Social Media.” Inklingmedia.net. March 17, 2014.Retrieved January 22, 2015, from http://inklingmedia.net/2014/03/17/11-reasons-people-love-social-media-2/.
[3] Renee Jacques, “11 Reasons You Should Quit Facebook in 2014.” Huffingtonpost.com. January 23, 2014. Retrieved January 22, 2015, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/12/30/reasons-quit-facebook_n_4493791.html.
[4] Kross E, Verduyn P, Demiralp E, Park J, Lee DS, et al, “Facebook Use Predicts Declines in Subjective Well-Being in Young Adults.” Plos One. August 14, 2013. Retrieved January 22, 2015 from http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0069841.
[5] “How the Friendship Paradox Makes Your Friends Better.” MIT Technology Review.January 14,2014. Retrieved January 22, 2015, from http://www.technologyreview.com/view/523566/how-the-friendship-paradox-makes-your-friends-better-than-you-are/.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Helen Kirwan-Taylor, “Suffering from: Friendly world syndrome?.” Managementtoday.co.uk. May 31, 2012.Retrieved January 22, 2015, from http://www.managementtoday.co.uk/features/1133169/suffering-from-friendly-world-syndrome/.
[8] Ibid How the Friendship Paradox.

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