Study reveals the number of Facebook ‘friends’ college students can actually identify

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Ever wonder if that person with 800 Facebook “friends” really has 800 friends? So did a group of researchers at California State University and Yale University, who recently published a study that examined the popular social networking website.

The research, published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, found that the average college student could only name three out of four people on their Facebook friend list.

“If users friending each other means allowing the person to take their private content into the public sphere, users should establish some basic criteria for ‘friends’ and realize that ‘friends’ they cannot name may provide a good place to start,” lead researcher Larry D. Rosen and his colleagues remarked in the study.

The researchers created a Facebook game called “What’s Her Face(book)” in which participants were repeatedly shown images of their Facebook friends to see how many they could name in 90 seconds. The game randomly displayed up for four photos from a Facebook friend’s profile and asked the participant to guess that friend’s first name, last name or full name. The participant was given the option to admit “I forgot” and move on to the next friend.

More than four thousand people played the game, which could be played multiple times, resulting in a total of 174,615 guesses. The average age of the participants was 24.

Data from the game revealed that the average Facebook user had about 650 friends. Overall, 72.7 percent of the participants’ guesses were correct. In other words, participants with 650 friends could name about 472 of them.

Women tended to be better than men at guessing the name of their Facebook friends, but tended to have slightly fewer friends. Women guessed names correctly 74.4 percent of the time, while men guessed correctly 71 percent of the time.

The game also showed that those with fewer Facebook friends were better at guessing their names. Those with the fewest number of friends guessed 80.1 percent of their names correctly. Among those with the most friends, the percentage of correct guesses dropped down to 64.7 percent.