Two friends tend to have more in common than two random individuals. But do friends shape our preferences in movies, music and books, or do we select friends who share our tastes? Past research was often not able to adequately track social relationships and tastes over a period of time. In the last few years, however, platforms such as Facebook have provided researchers with tools to investigate friendship dynamics over time.
A 2011 study from Harvard University and Santa Rosa Junior College published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “Social Selection and Peer Influence in an Online Social Network,” maps the homogeneity of social networks on Facebook. Researchers captured network and profile information from students at a U.S. college once a year between March 2006 and March 2009. They then classified students’ 100 most popular self-reported book, movie and music preferences, identified defining attributes of the students’ social networks, and then correlated these data to discover patterns related to tastes, friend selections and shared preferences.
Key study findings include:
The authors conclude: “The social impact of a taste may depend first on its medium (e.g., tastes in music and in movies appear to be more consequential than tastes in books), and second on the particular content of the preference.” They add, “notably, tastes shared by ‘everyone’ may be so banal that they no longer serve as effective markers of social differentiation.”
Tags: Facebook, Twitter