Has Facebook Redefined Friendship? - Facts & Infographic
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Truth In Numbers
According to July 2012 reports, Facebook has over 955 million monthly active users. This is a quantum leap from 100 million in August 2008. Among these, over 174.5 million are Facebook users from North America. Europe accounts for more than 223 million users and Asia for more than 184 million users. Over 488 million users access Facebook through their mobile phones. Quantcast ranks Facebook as the second site in the US in terms of traffic. It has been the leading social network in most English speaking countries including Australia, the US, the UK, and Canada. The US has about 155.6 million Facebook users, Brazil has 52.8 million users, India has about 51 million, Indonesia 44 million, and Mexico 36.2 million members. The total revenue reported by Facebook for Q2 2012 is $1,184 million.
More than everything else, Facebook has been a social and cultural revolution. The network has changed the way people across the world connect. Not only do people connect with friends, peers, colleagues, college mates and other community members, Facebook has also become the place to meet and befriend new people. Currently Facebook has over 100 billion friend connections.
The F(acebook) in Friendship
May 2012 Pew Internet reports suggest that Millenials (between ages 18 & 34) have about 319 friends on an average. Gen X (ages 35 – 46) has about 198 Facebook friends. Young Boomers (47 – 56) have 156, Old Boomers (57 – 65) have about 85, the Silent Generation (66 – 74) has 78 friends and the GI Generation (75 and above) have about 42 Facebook friends. While every user adds an average of 7 friends each month only about 22% of Facebook friends are from high school. Facebook currently allows users to segment the ‘friends’ and control privacy by modifying which group gets to view which content.
On an average, every Facebook user has 229 friends. In a recent survey in the UK, almost 33% of the respondents admitted to having more friends on Facebook and other social networks than in real life. Surprisingly, almost 50% of those surveyed agreed that Facebook and other online friendships were superficial and about 25% confessed to lying or at least exaggerating about what the do or who they meet making them sound more cool and exciting. About a third of the respondents spend more time on Facebook and online chatting than in offline interactions.
Facebook users are constantly in touch with each other, making friends across the world, and in sync with social events. Over 80% of the friendship requests sent are accepted. On any given day about 15% of Facebook users update their status, about 20% comment on their friends’ photos and 22% on their friends’ posts or status messages. About 10% use Facebook mail and 26% ‘like’ friends’ content.
Social Awkwardness Revisited
According to one survey, about 24% people admitted to having missed out important moments in trying to broadcast or share those moments over their social networks. Has updating Facebook, photo sharing, poking, messaging, tagging, and commenting taken over smiling, talking, holding hands, and simply being present?
With Facebook users worldwide spending over 10.5 billion minutes (excluding time spent by mobile users) – almost 19,963 years – each day, it is not surprising that website is often counted as the primary medium to share good news with friends, make plans and even stay in touch. In a study called “Social Lives Vs. Social Networks” about 83% respondents seem to think that Facebook and other social media sites have certainly helped shy people break the ice and make friends with little awkwardness.
Where, then, does one draw the line? Here’s our take on the top 5 things to avoid doing or sharing on Facebook
- Letting Facebook remember your friends’ birthdays (and looking sheepish when they have hidden theirs)
- Tagging all the friends in a drunken party photo (without permission)
- Drooling over the pretty, hot lady or the handsome hunk at work (on your own or anyone’s wall)
- Discussing a friend’s break up or indiscretions online (with or without friend’s knowledge)
- Popping the question (Duh!)
Status gaffes are often amplified when it comes to Facebook. Tactless remarks on Facebook often have long lives. Likes, comments, and shares amplify the scope and the audience. Since it is not unusual for employers or prospective employers to check Facebook profiles Think Before You Share is the new ‘Look Before You Leap’. What happens in Vegas, now stays in Facebook.
According to the United States Department of Labor, men (above the age of 15) spent about 5.8 hours and women about 5.2 hours on an average day in watching TV, socializing, exercising, and other leisure activities. One would assume that Facebook and other social networking sites would be included in this. What statistics reveal, however, is that about 16% of the total time spent online, is spent on Facebook. According to June 2012 reports US unique visitors to Facebook were at 159.8 million. On an average, Americans spend over 6.5 hours on Facebook each month. An average Facebook user can reach about 156,569 users at two degrees of separation (with privacy settings Friends-of-friends). Facebook has over 955 million monthly active users. Gaming with friends is one of the most popular activities. The top games that connect friends over Facebook are – Texas HoldEm Poker, Words With Friends, Bubble Witch Saga, Gardens of Time, The Sims Social, Cityville, and Castleville. About 6% Facebook users update their status several times a day, 9% about once a day, 12% about 3-5 times a week 17% about 1-2 times a week, 18% once in a few weeks, and 22% less frequently. Facebook generates about 3.2 billion likes and comments and 300 million photo uploads everyday.
The Story of Peers and Roommates
According to a UBC survey over 80% Facebook users are willing to add complete strangers on Facebook. In 2007, a Syphos survey indicated that about 41% were willing to add strangers as ‘friends’. In June 2012, One Poll survey says that 75% Britons have accepted strangers as friends on Facebook. An average 22 year old in the UK has over 1000 Facebook friends. And teenagers, even adults across the world, are not shy to share their emails, addresses, phone numbers, and other personal details creating major security concerns. The spread of smartphones and geotagging has further accentuated the issue. The word ‘Facebook Stalker’ is now a part of Urban Dictionary. Facebook has increasingly been linked to crimes. In the past year over 100 Facebook related crimes were reported in the Lothian Region of Scotland. While many universities have creatively used Facebook to match roommates, the dangers of finding unsavory companions are amplified when people start to look for roommates on Facebook and other social networks. In January 2012, Lorna Smith from Brixton, London, was murdered by the man who had stalked her on Facebook. It does come as a relief, though, that law enforcement agencies of many countries are taking to Facebook too.
Lonely in a Crowd
The May 2012, The Atlantic published an article Is Facebook Making Us Lonely? by Canadian novelist Stephen Marche. Marche holds up former Playmate and actress Yvette Vickers as an example of the growing number of people who have isolated themselves from the real world to be caught up in Facebook. Yvette Vickers had only been in touch with virtual fans for a long while and had lost track of real friends. So much so, that her death went unnoticed for over a year. Marche insinuates that this is by no means a stray example. Survey results from Relationship Australia indicate that about 30% of those addicted to Facebook and other social networking sites between the ages 25 & 34 are frequently lonely.
MIT professor Sherry Turkle suggested something similar in the New York Times in The Flight From Conversation and in her book Alone Together. Turkle claims that the world we live in is teeming with mobile technology and with interactions over social networks such as Facebook, and Twitter, and in the midst of all this ‘we have sacrificed conversation for more connection’. Reports suggest that the average American teenager is likely to have over 1000 friends listed on Facebook and send up to 60 text messages a day but make only 5 calls.
Marche’s report was criticized bitterly. Pew Internet’s conflicting 2011 report suggests that Facebook users are more trusting, have more close relationships, and get more social support. Regular Facebook users, those who use the social networking site many times each day is more likely to have 9% closer ties vis-à-vis other Internet users. The report also says that these regular Facebook users found more emotional support and were more likely to find offline companions in times of need.
Is Privacy A Thing Of The Past?
In real life it is much easier for us to restrict dissemination of private information than it is on Facebook. While a Facebook user may be willing to share some information with friends, some with colleagues and other information only with family, Facebook’s privacy has always raked up major concerns. Over 13 million users are either not aware of the privacy tools in Facebook or have not set any privacy restrictions. About 28% Facebook users share all their posts, photos, information, and content with a wider audience (beyond their friends). Even when privacy restrictions are in place, a user’s friend may unwittingly allow a Facebook app to share the user’s information with third parties.
Facebook Privacy Quick Tips -
- Select your audience for all posts, photos, and private information
- Review how your page/profile looks to the public audience using the “view as” tab
- Turn your Tag Suggest option off to disable facial recognition in photos
- Block apps broadcasting personal information
- Control your privacy by classifying friends and selecting groups to share information with
Is Blood Thicker Than Facebook?
In February 2006, news reports said that a Colorado mother was reunited with her daughter after 30 years, thanks to Facebook. In 2010, after a major earthquake stuck Haiti, Facebook was instrumental in reuniting many families. In June 2012, a family visiting Grand Strand was reunited with a five year old after having posted on Facebook seeking help with their lost son. In July 2012, US airman Don Gibson ended a 20 year search for his son Craig, after having located him on Facebook. Such stories are certainly not uncommon anymore. Facebook has also admittedly brought families closer by allowing them to stay regularly in touch.
On the flipside, family estrangements are complicated by Facebook says a New York Times report from June 2012. According to another report about 44% mothers claim that the use of Facebook increased immediately after giving birth, indicating that the social network may be eating into the time previously spent bonding with the infant. About 58% mothers visited their Facebook profiles at least once a day and used the site to vent. 93% mothers uploaded pictures of their children. According to a 2011 study by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, Facebook was cited as the cause in one out of every five divorces in the US.
Facebook has been a revolution. Besides having changed the way we communicate, befriend, exchange ideas, and interact socially, Facebook has shrunk the world unexpectedly. The accompanying evils apart, Facebook has opened us up to the benevolence and warmth of strangers. Strangers quite frequently step up to help in times of natural catastrophes and answer distress calls.
Has Facebook Redefined Friendship?