The friendship paradox - Deepstash
The 'friendship paradox' doesn't always explain real friendships, mathematicians say

The 'friendship paradox' doesn't always explain real friendships, mathematicians say

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The friendship paradox

The friendship paradox

The paradox states that, on average, your friends are more popular than you are.

Sociologist Scott Feld first explained the friendship paradox in 1991 in the article "Why Your Friends Have More Friends Than You Do." He observed that most people have fewer friends than their friends have, on average. 

Averages are misleading

Lead author George Cantwell says averages are often highly misleading. Some people are less popular than their friends. Others are more so.

Cantwell and his colleagues developed a new mathematical equation to help researchers understand the paradox of friendship in real-world social networks. They based their equation on two assumptions: 

  1. There is a large degree of variation in how many friends people have.
  2. Popular people often have popular friends, and unpopular people have unpopular friends. 

Their new equations could explain 95% of the variance.

Mathematical equation can explain certain aspects

  • The friendship paradox is stronger in social networks that are made up of people with varied popularities.
  • Our social circles are biased samples of the population. Generally, it is not appropriate to compare ourselves to our friends.
  • The mathematical equations on the friendship paradox can explain societal aspects such as election polling and infectious disease spread.

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