The Facebook-backed study claims that friends you don’t usually talk to are the ones that introduce you to new information and perspectives.
The study shows that a user usually has more friends on Facebook that they do not talk to regularly. Thus, the large number of distant friends have greater influence than closer Facebook friends, due to the collectively larger number of distant friends.
Eytan Bakshy, a member of Facebook’s data science team, wrote on the Facebook blog:
"We found that even though people are more likely to consume and share information that comes from close contacts that they interact with frequently, the vast majority of information comes from contacts that they interact with infrequently. These distant contacts are also more likely to share novel information, demonstrating that social networks can act as a powerful medium for sharing new ideas, highlighting new products and discussing current events."
Friends with strong ties are still likely to interact frequently but weak tie friends are the ones that have the most potential to introduce friends to information and perspectives that they normally would not see.
"Since these distant contacts tend to be different from us, the bulk of information we consume and share comes from people with different perspectives. This may provide some comfort to those who worry that social networks are simply an echo chamber where people are only exposed to those who share the same opinions" he added.
Bakshy claims the study is "among the first to rigorously quantify influence at a mass scale" and that the results of the study demonstrate that online social networking can be an important method for sharing new information and perspectives.
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