Two recent studies may answer a key question haunting our modern, hyper-connected condition: how many of your friends — if you are a typical American — refuse to use Facebook? Two weeks ago, the Pew Research Center revealed that the typical American Facebook user has 245 friends on the social network, and yesterday the New York Times, using a slightly outlandish method involving Social Security records, reported that the average American knows approximately 600 people. Voilà! If you're an average Facebook user and an average American, about 355 of your people exist only outside of Mark Zuckerberg's walled garden. (That, and you are doubly average.)
Two things to consider, though: Facebook has stretched the definition of "friend" pretty thin, so being connected to someone on the social network doesn't mean you necessarily know them. And the Times's method of determining how many people you truly know seems like a bit of a gamble. Basically, the author of the piece asked a bunch of people how many individuals they knew who used a certain name — Sean, for example, or Rachel — and then measured that against the number of people in America (according to Social Security rolls) who use the same names. It's somewhat unclear, too, if 600 was a steadfast result: "The method’s inventors, H. Russell Bernard and Peter Killworth, estimated from an earlier survey that the average American knew only 290 people." (In which case, just 35 of your core group of friends aren't on Facebook — a horrifying thought.)
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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