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How many "Facebook friends" do we really know?

June 17, 2024

When we talk about the dangers of not taking care of our privacy on the Internet, we rarely think of sophisticated software designed to extract important data from our continuous interactions with the network: enter our card number in an online payment box, fill out a registration form on a specific website, or even search for keywords on Google.

However, it is increasingly common that the information with which data analysts and specialists work in data mining are not lines that we have typed in Internet spaces that we thought were private and protected, but the things we do in social networks open to many people. In other words, what puts our privacy in check are the actions we take on the Internet so that information about us reaches more people and, at the same time, has information about others.


Privacy on Facebook

The clearest example of this lack of voluntary privacy we could have before our noses, in the amount of people we have added as friends in the most important social network: Facebook. It is increasingly common to have a massive number of people added, even if our profile is not created to promote our products or services.

An interesting study

At this point, we can not ask ourselves what percentage of these people are made up of friends, but simply, how many of these people that we have added on Facebook are we able to recognize . The answer, according to research led by a series of scientists at California State University and Yale University, is that friends and acquaintances may not add up to 75% of the people we have added on Facebook, at least with the sample used (a part of the American population).


That is to say, that the amount of people that we really know from the list of our contacts on Facebook could be only a proportion of 3 out of every 4 individuals. The rest of the people? We have serious problems remembering your name or surnames .

Do you recognize this person?

The article that reports on the research, published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, gives more clues about how this study was proposed.

To carry out the data collection, the team of researchers designed a computer program called What's Her Face (book) in which each of the more than 4,000 participants who tried it had to enter the name, surname or first and last name of people chosen randomly from their contact list on Facebook. The "file" on the person to be identified only contained five photographs: the profile image and four photos in which it was labeled.


In case of introducing only a name or a surname, one of the letters could be faulted so that the attempt could be counted as success, while if a name and at least one surname were introduced, a margin of 3 letters of error was left . Participants were encouraged to identify as many people as possible in 90 seconds, which was how long the game lasted, and they could play again as many times as they wanted. The average number of games played by each person was 4 times.

The result? On average, the participants were only able to identify 72.7% of their Facebook friends , which was an average of 650. In other words, from the average of 650 people added on Facebook, the participants were only able to say the names of 472 of them, not even 3 of every 4 people added to this social network.

In detail

Beyond this result obtained as an average, there are some differences between subgroups of individuals. Differences that, in any case, do not even cover the distance that goes from the average of 72.7% to 100% of hits that theoretically would be expected if the Facebook friends of the participants were also friends in real life .

For example, the men proved themselves better by identifying other men , while women also proved more skilled at recognizing people of the same sex.

In addition, women generally performed better than men, with 74.4% correcting the name, while men obtained a mean of 71%.

On the other hand, as expected, those people with fewer people on their contact list got better results : around 80% of correct answers that contrast with 64.7 of correct answers in people with more people added.

A slight advantage

Theoretically, the results obtained by people who had previously played should be better than the rest because they had the opportunity to have more time to identify people who were not recognized at the beginning. Further, every time it failed to identify a person, the name of that Facebook contact appeared on the screen , which should give a significant advantage when it comes to getting a good score in the next turn.

However, the people who played the most times only managed to improve an average of 2% of their score, an increase that seems ridiculous considering the number of times they still fail even in the last attempt.


Do You Really Need To Have Friends? (June 2024).


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