Ever felt you can’t quite match up to the people you follow on Twitter? While you’re tweeting about that lunchtime cheese sandwich, their feeds are full of elegant witticisms, important-sounding conferences and bungee jumps. Don’t worry, it’s not your fault — your Twitter friends are just more interesting than you.
Sociologists have long known that people have fewer friends than their friends do, on average. This strange conclusion, known as the friendship paradox, arises because of sampling bias: people with a larger number of friends are more likely to be your friend, so they get counted more often.
Now, Nathan Hodas and colleagues at the Information Sciences Institute in Marina del Rey, California, have shown this holds true on Twitter too. The team analysed 5.8 million Twitter users’ followers and followees (which they dubbed friends) and found that nearly all users were less popular than both their friends and followers — perhaps not surprising, since celebrities like @justinbieber and @ladygaga massively tip the scales.
What’s more, the researchers also found 88 per cent of users tweet less often than their friends, rising to 99 per cent when completely inactive users are removed, and 79 per cent of users post fewer virally spreading links than their friends. “These facts together suggest the glib expression ‘your friends are more interesting than you are‘,” they note in a paper due to be presented at the Weblogs and Social Media conference in Boston this July.
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