Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

Features

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
Features
  • Study: Kids gain weight more quickly over summer break

    Any parent or teacher can tell you that schoolchildren tend to slip back a bit academically over the long summer break. But now a Harvard University study has come up with troubling indications that they also gain weight more quickly during those months when, traditionally, we hope they're outdoors much of the time, enjoying the summer sun.

    June 16, 2014

  • 20140614-AMX-RETIRE-GENX14.jpg Lean retirement looms for Generation X

    When their working years end, Gen-Xers might have to live on just half of their pre-retirement income, compared with 60 percent for the Baby Boom generation, Pew said last year.

    June 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • 20140612-AMX-FATHERS-CARDS123.jpg Father's Day cards make subjects the targets of jokes

    There's a good chance if you receive — or give — a Father's Day card this weekend, Dad will be portrayed as a flatulent, beer-obsessed, tool-challenged buffoon who would rather hog the remote, go fishing or play golf than be with the kids.

    June 15, 2014 3 Photos

  • Texting while driving is latest teen risk as smoking declines

    While smoking among American teens has fallen to a 22-year low, most adolescents admit to engaging in a new type of risky behavior: texting while driving.

    June 15, 2014

  • $15 minimum wage puts Seattle in uncharted waters

    Depending on which pundit is nattering away, this means Seattle is either going to fall off the map and become a "Mad Max"-style economic wasteland or transform into an egalitarian utopia that inspires sweeping pro-labor activism nationwide.

    June 7, 2014

  • 2010-Winter-Olympic-Games-001.jpg Nobody wants to host the Winter Olympics

    If we end up watching slopestyle from the Central Asia steppes in 2022, it will likely be because it's becoming clear that nobody in Europe wants to host these Olympics anymore. Publics may finally be getting wise to the fact that the long-term economic benefits of hosting mega-events like the Olympics or the World Cup are usually negligible at best.

    May 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • airplanes-work-1.jpg Airfare honesty? It may be an oxymoron

    The issue of fare advertising has taken on a renewed sense of urgency now that Congress is considering removing the Transportation Department's full-fare advertising rule, which requires airlines and ticket sellers to display a price that you can actually book.

    May 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Study: Both men and women feel less stress at work than at home

    In a newly released study in the Journal of Science and Medicine, researchers carefully examined the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, of a variety of workers throughout the day. The data clearly showed that both men and women are significantly less stressed out at work than they are at home.
     And the women they studied said they were happier at work. While the men said they felt happier at home.

    May 27, 2014

  • Five myths about caffeine

    But how much do you know about the drug - and yes, it is a drug - you're consuming? Before downing one more gulp of your favorite stimulant, let go of some persistent, caffeinated myths.

    May 27, 2014

  • Making the most of longer school days

    Research shows that extra time doesn't help unless it is well used. With that in mind, the Boston-based National Center on Time and Learning has just released recommendations on the best way to construct a longer school day.

    May 26, 2014

AP Video
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.