The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

Community News Network

January 14, 2014

Study: Your friends really are happier, more popular than you

We like to blame Facebook and Instagram for making it seem as though all of our friends lead cooler, more sociable, more interesting lives. But it turns out social networks are not at fault: Your friends really are richer, happier and more popular than you, according to a depressing new study from researchers in Finland and France.

This little mobius strip of a phenomenon is called the "generalized friendship paradox," and at first glance it makes no sense. Everyone's friends can't be richer and more popular — that would just escalate until everyone's a socialite billionaire.

The whole thing turns on averages, though. Most people have small numbers of friends and, apparently, moderate levels of wealth and happiness. A few people have buckets of friends and money and are (as a result?) wildly happy. When you take the two groups together, the really obnoxiously lucky people skew the numbers for the rest of us. Here's how MIT's Technology Review explains the math:

"The paradox arises because numbers of friends people have are distributed in a way that follows a power law rather than an ordinary linear relationship. So most people have a few friends while a small number of people have lots of friends.

"It's this second small group that causes the paradox. People with lots of friends are more likely to number among your friends in the first place. And when they do, they significantly raise the average number of friends that your friends have. That's the reason that, on average, your friends have more friends than you do."

And this rule doesn't just apply to friendship — other studies have shown that your Twitter followers have more followers than you, and your sexual partners have more partners than you've had. This latest study, by Young-Ho Eom at the University of Toulouse and Hang-Hyun Jo at Aalto University in Finland, centered on citations and coauthors in scientific journals. Essentially, the "generalized friendship paradox" applies to all interpersonal networks, regardless of whether they're set in real life or online.

So while it's tempting to blame social media for what the New York Times last month called "the agony of Instagram" — that peculiar mix of jealousy and insecurity that accompanies any glimpse into other people's glamorously Hudson-ed lives — the evidence suggests that Instagram actually has little to do with it. Whenever we interact with other people, we glimpse lives far more glamorous than our own.

That's not exactly a comforting thought, but it should assuage your anxiety next time you scroll through your Facebook feed.

1
Text Only
Community News Network
  • Why do wolves howl?

    Of all the myths that dog the wolf, none is more widely accepted than the idea that wolves howl at the moon. Images of wolves with their heads upturned, singing at the night sky, are as unquestioned as a goldfish's three-second memory or a dog's color-blindness (both also myths).

    April 18, 2014

  • Biggest student loan profits come from grad students

    This week, the Congressional Budget Office projected that the federal government would earn roughly $127 billion from student lending during the next 10 years.

    April 18, 2014

  • quake.jpg Pennsylvania won’t take action following Ohio ruling on quakes, fracking

    Pennsylvania officials plan no action despite new Ohio rules on drilling that affect a seismically active area near the state line.

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Raw oysters spike U.S. rise in bacterial infections, CDC reports

    Raw oysters, so good with hot sauce, increasingly can carry something even more unsettling to the stomach: A bacteria linked to vomiting, diarrhea and pain.

    April 17, 2014

  • To sleep well, you may need to adjust what you eat and when

    Sleep.  Oh, to sleep.  A good night's sleep is often a struggle for more than half of American adults.  And for occasional insomnia, there are good reasons to avoid using medications, whether over-the-counter or prescription.

    April 16, 2014

  • Doctors to rate cost effectiveness of expensive cancer drugs

    The world's largest organization of cancer doctors plans to rate the cost effectiveness of expensive oncology drugs, and will urge physicians to use the ratings to discuss the costs with their patients.

    April 16, 2014

  • Allergies are the real midlife crisis

    One of the biggest mysteries is why the disease comes and goes, and then comes and goes again. People tend to experience intense allergies between the ages of 5 and 16, then get a couple of decades off before the symptoms return in the 30s, only to diminish around retirement age.

    April 15, 2014

  • treadmill-very-fast.jpg Tax deduction for a gym membership?

    April marks another tax season when millions of Americans will deduct expenses related to home ownership, children and education from their annual tax bill. These deductions exist because of their perceived value to society; they encourage behaviors that keep the wheels of the economy turning. So why shouldn't the tax code be revised to reward preventive health?

    April 15, 2014 1 Photo

  • Google acquires drone maker Titan Aerospace to spread Internet

    Google is adding drones to its fleets of robots and driverless cars.
    The Internet search company said it acquired Titan Aerospace, the maker of high-altitude, solar-powered satellites that provides customer access to data services around the world. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed.

    April 14, 2014

  • 25801486.jpg VIDEO: Northern California bus crash kills 10

    At least nine people died in Northern California on Thursday night, in an accident involving a bus, a car and FedEx truck. The bus was filled with high school students from Southern California who were on their way to visit a college campus.

    April 11, 2014 1 Photo

Graduation Salutes
Seasonal Content