Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Facebook Is a Good Information Source

Do you get tired of all of the whiny Facebook statuses that people post about their breakups and the constant sports-related updates about teams that you could care less about? Do you feel like every time that you get on Facebook and scroll through your news feed that you pretty much see the same basic things that you see every time that you get on? Although Facebook may seem like what PCMag refers to as an “echo chamber,” research was just released that says differently.

The newly released research states that Facebook actually provides its users with the opportunity for exposure to a variety of different viewpoints, instead of just being a constant stream of things that have nothing to do with you or your interests. That may be some of the things that you see, but it definitely isn’t all of it.

"We found that even though people are more likely to consume and share information that comes from close contacts that they interact with frequently (like discussing a photo from last night's party), the vast majority of information comes from contacts that they interact with infrequently," Facebook's Eytan Bakshy wrote in a blog post. "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."

People within your social circle can be a very good source of information. Bakshy wrote, “Economic sociologist Mark Granovetter was one of the first to popularize the use of social networks in understanding the spread of information. In his seminal 1973 paper, The Strength of Weak Ties, Granovetter found that surprisingly, people are more likely to acquire jobs that they learned about through individuals they interact with infrequently rather than their close personal contacts.”

He goes on to discuss how restraining oneself to a small group of close personal contacts can really limit your prospects for discovering information. It is very likely that you will discover something that you never have seen and never would have thought of via mere acquaintances rather than close friends. This is because, most likely, your friends have very similar interests to you.

“We are exposed to and spread more information from our distant contacts than our close friends," Bakshy wrote. "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 stated in conclusion.

Sources: PCMag - Facebook Actually Useful, Not An Echo Chamber and Facebook Data - Rethinking Information Diversity in Networks

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