“Do people befriend others who are similar to them, or do they become more similar to their friends over time?”

December 21st, 2011

Recent advances in stochastic actor-based modeling, combined with self-reported data on a popular online social network site, allow us to address this question with a greater degree of precision than has heretofore been possible. Using data on the Facebook activity of a cohort of college students over 4 years, we find that students who share certain tastes in music and in movies, but not in books, are significantly likely to befriend one another. Meanwhile, we find little evidence for the diffusion of tastes among Facebook friends—except for tastes in classical/jazz music. These findings shed light on the mechanisms responsible for observed network homogeneity; provide a statistically rigorous assessment of the coevolution of cultural tastes and social relationships; and suggest important qualifications to our understanding of both homophily and contagion as generic social processes.

From some Harvard profs. In other words, “interests of friends don’t, in fact, tend to influence one another.”

I don’t know that I’m surprised by this. People tend, in real life at least, to befriend people with similar tastes. It would seem that this preference extends to social networking. I’m sure if you look at my FB feed, you will see an abundancy of posts about libertarian/conservative thought. Take a person who is liberal, and I’m sure many of the posts will be progressive in nature.