What do friend counts mean?

I was wondering, when looking across the various social networks that I’m a part of, what if anything can be extrapolated from the friend counts in each. In real life I have a given set of friends, and subsets of them and I are members of various networks under which we are labeled friends. My friend counts go like this across both social networks and sites with a social networking component:

MySpace: 90 (includes many people I don’t know)
LinkedIn: 74
Flickr: 70 (friends+family)
Friendster: 41
Facebook: 29
Amazon: 7
YouTube: 5
Del.icio.us: 4
Upcoming.org: 4
Digg: 3
Netflix: 3
Orkut: 3

UPDATE:Dodgeball: 20, Last.fm: 2, MyBlogLog: 2

Orkut almost doesn’t count because it’s largely abandoned (in the US), but I did sign up for it back in the day. Looking across all of the networks, it’s clear I have different sets of friends in each. I imagine that speaks, to some extent, as to which of my friends are the most nerdy. Fil is clearly tops in that list. He appears in 11 of 12 networks (no Netflix). Then there are people like Martha who appear in some of my least-populous networks (Netflix, Upcoming.org) but not the more popular (Facebook).

If I were to trim MySpace down to people I actually know, I think it would dip below LinkedIn on the list. Perhaps that speaks to my age? I keep in touch with more people in a professional context than social? As for some of the lower links (single digit ones) I think that’s largely explained by the lack of value those sites provide with their social components. Amazon is missing a huge opportunity, as their social components have languished for years, and they could do a lot of great things with them. Upcoming.org is another great opportunity that seems to be fading. Netflix is an exception – they do a nice job, but there just aren’t as many people I know with a Netflix account.

I have an order of magnitude fewer friends on YouTube as opposed to Flickr, which I don’t think is fully explained by the fact that photos are more popular than videos. I think a lot of it has to do with YouTube’s terrible user experience when it comes to inviting and sharing with friends. I still can’t see some of my friends’ videos, and I have no idea why.

From a strict social networking perspective, I like Facebook’s structure the best, but I have relatively few friends there. I think that largely speaks to my age. Facebook grew popular in colleges a few years after I left, and only a subset of people I know went back and joined it as alumni.

I also found it interesting that my friend counts across the various sites fit a long tail distribution.

14 thoughts on “What do friend counts mean?

  1. What about things like AIM or contacts in Outlook? I would be interested in those stats as well. Also, I think a top ten list of nerds is in order (you’ve already told us Fil is #1, I’m curious to see where I rank with your list of socially inept friends).

  2. Yup, I figured I’d forgotten some. Last.fm and MyBlogLog would also contribute to the long tail of social networks for me (2-4 friends in each).

    Schulte, you may be #2 nerdiest. You were tied with Fil until I thought of some of the less popular networks (digg/del.icio.us/upcoming). If I included Last.FM and MyBlogLog, Fil would pull away even further into the #1 slot.

    I didn’t count contact lists in other applications because they weren’t social (community-based).

  3. I’m pretty sure I have accounts with digg and del.icio.us I’ll find out and get back to you.


  4. Friendship cannot be quantified.

    I, clearly, rank #1 in awesome friendshipness. Regardless of how many (or how few) nerd networks I’m on.

    Speaking of social communities, is Callahan alive? I haven’t spoken to that guy since he got married. I blame him.

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