Study: Facebook Isn’t the Echo Chamber You Might Expect


When it comes to social networks, one argument that is often raised against them is that they encapsulate their users in a safe network of friends that keeps out information that may go against the users’ belief system. Social networking users, after all, tend to friend like-minded users. The reality, though, say Facebook own researchers, isn’t quite as dramatic. Indeed, they argue, we tend to get more information on Facebook from distant friends than close friends and are actually more likely to see information that comes from distant friends than from our inner circle of close friends. The researchers conclude that “online social networks actually increase the spread of novel information and diverse viewpoints.”

Weak ties strong ties

Looking at a Facebook dataset from 2010, the research team noticed that the social network’s users do, as expected, are more likely to share links and post from people they have strong ties with. That’s pretty much what one would expect, given that the people we are close friends with are likely to share at least a large subset of our interests and believes. Facebook’s research also shows that people with strong ties tend to visit the same websites, for example, while those we aren’t that close to tend to visit different sites and hence get their news and other items they share on Facebook from different sites as well.

Here is where things diverge from the standard echo chamber thinking, though. When it comes to people we have weak ties to, we are actually a good bit more likely to re-share their content with our own group of friends. Given that most people also have significantly more distant friends than close friends (the researchers assume about a 10-1 ratio), we actually tend to get more information on Facebook from our distant friends than our close friends. “Weak ties,” the researchers argue, “have the greatest potential to expose their friends to information that they would not have otherwise discovered.”

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Study: Tablet Users Love to Read the News, Still Reluctant to Pay for It


Consuming news ranks, according to a new study conducted by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, among the most popular things adults in the U.S. do with their tablets. Reading news sites and watching news-related video is about as popular as sending and receiving email, for example, and more popular than using social networking services. As the news industry struggles to find viable business models in this new world, though, one number that stands out is the fact that only 14% of U.S. adults have paid for news directly on their tablets.

According to this report, though, 23% of users also have “a subscription to a print newspaper or magazine that they say includes digital access.” This brings the total number of those who have paid access to news on their tablets to over 30% (assuming there is some overlap here, too). Only 21% of respondents were willing to pay $5 for news access, though, and 10% would pay $10.

Apps vs Browsers | Project for Excellence in Journalism  PEJ

It’s worth noting, though, that this data was gathered before the launch of iOS5. Some early data suggests that the Newsstand feature Apple built into its new operating system could boost sales for news-related apps. It remains to be seen if this is a real trend or just driven by curiosity as users try out this new feature, though.

More Data About Tablet Users

According to the Pew study, about 11% of all U.S. adults now own “some kind of tablet.” More than 80% of those who owned tablets said they owned an iPad, by the way. 2% didn’t know the brand of their tablet.

Other interesting data points: [list]

  • tablet users tend to be more highly educated and have a higher household income than U.S. adults overall
  • tablet users consume more news than the average U.S. adult and prefers reading news over watching it
  • only 21% of users mostly use apps to consume news.
  • those who download a specific news app mostly do so because they like the brand of the news organization (84%) and aren’t deterred by negative reviews [/list]

The Pew team put together a handy infographic with all the main data points from this study:


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Do You Secretly Read Your Spouse’s Email? You’re Not Alone


While many of us worry about protecting our private information from large corporations like Google and Apple, the reality is that those closest to us are more likely to care about our emails, calling and browsing history than some corporate Big Brother. According to a new study by electronics review and shopping site Retrevo, 30% of all the men in this study and 35% of women have ever checked the email or call history of someone they are dating. For married couples, those numbers are slightly higher (32% for men and 41% for women) and – no surprise – parents are just as likely to spy on their kids (37%) as they are to spy on each other.


Overall, these numbers are up significantly from last year, too. While the number of people spying on each other has risen, though, the number of those who actually reported that they discovered someone cheating only rose slightly. Either that’s a good thing and means that people are less likely to cheat on each other, or people just got better at covering their tracks.


As for tracking spouses and family members by using their phones GPS feature, most people say they would never sink this low (68%), but a good number of respondents (20%) did say they would use this feature if they became suspicious of their spouses or partners. When it comes to their kids, though, most parents have very little issues with tracking them, though. Just under 60% of parents would happily use GPS technology to track their offspring.


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