Study: people tend to make friends on Facebook with people of similar tastes

A recently published study of college students argues that people become Facebook friends with people of similar tastes:

“The more tastes that you and I share in common, the more likely we are to become friends,” said study author Kevin Lewis, a graduate student in sociology at Harvard University.

The findings seem to contradict the conventional wisdom that people are easily influenced by those around them. Instead, “we’re seeking out people we already resemble rather than learning new perspectives and liking new things,” Lewis said…

The goal of the study was to understand how people choose friendships, Lewis said. The researchers started with 1,640 students at an unnamed U.S. college in 2006 and tracked their Facebook friendships and tastes — in popular music, movies and books — until they were seniors in 2009…

The study found that “students who share some tastes in movies and music are more likely to become friends,” Lewis said. Shared tastes in books were less influential.

Sounds like an interesting study. I haven’t read the full study but there are two other things I would want to know:

1. The study is restricted to college students. Might this influence the results? Of course, these college students will become the adults of the next few decades.

2. How does this fit with existing research that shows that people tend to be Facebook friends with people they already know? Things are a little different in college where students are more willing to friend people in these classes (actual academic courses and year in school). But, most Facebook users are not going online to find new friends with whom they don’t previously have a connection.

3. The last paragraph I cited above makes me think of branding. Younger people in particular define themselves by some of their tastes and it doesn’t shock me that this is done more through music and movies than books. So are books more private tastes or are very few people in college reading?

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