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Birds of a Feather: Homophily on Facebook
    Hannah Lynn Spears     Texas Lutheran University
    Ryan Jordahl     Texas Lutheran University
    Emily Braun     Texas Lutheran University
    Maria Lisbet Orozco     Texas Lutheran University
    Tiffiny L. Sia     Texas Lutheran University

It has been said that birds of a feather flock together. Homophily is defined as greater contact among similar people than dissimilar people (McPherson, Smith-Lovin, & Cook, 2001). In wedding party photos, the percentage of white brides/grooms with exclusively white attendants is 87.4%, showing that close friends of whites are usually white (Berry, 2006). Facebook is a popular social media platform with 1.55 billion current users (“Number of monthly active Facebook users,” 2015). Limited research has been done on Facebook friendships. To see if homophily exists in social media networks we examined Facebook friends of White and Hispanic males and females.

White and Hispanic male and female confederates allowed the documentation of their social networks on Facebook. There were 2,012 Facebook friends tracked; 822 males, 1,013 females and 177 where sex was not provided. Where possible, Facebook friends were coded as being the same or opposite sex and the same or different race as Facebook Confederates. Measures of homophily that follow could thus range from 0% (totally dissimilar) to 100% (totally similar).

A 2x2 MANOVA was conducted with Race of Facebook Confederates (White v. Hispanic) and Sex of Facebook Confederates (Male v. Female) as the independent variables and the frequency of race homophily and sex homophily as the dependent variables.
There were statistically significant multivariate main effects for both Race and Sex of Confederate, as well as an interaction between the two (p < .05 for all). An examination of univariate effects for race homophily revealed only a significant main effect for Race of Confederate, F(1,1814)= 211.55, p < .05, eta2= .10 White Confederates had higher race homophily (82%) than Hispanic Confederates (50%). An examination of univariate effects for sex homophily revealed significant main effects for both Race and Sex of Confederate, but these must be understood in light of a significant interaction, F(1,1814)= 10.26, p< .05, eta2= .01 The White female Confederate had greater homophily (79.6%) relative to the other Confederates [Hispanic female (52.9%), the Hispanic male (44.9%), and the White male (56.5%)].

Facebook friend networks appear to mirror the principle of homophily, especially for whites and females. Hispanics, being the minority, likely encounter more majority members thus leading to greater heterogeneity of friendships. Females may feel safer with female friends, since they are less likely to hit on or harass them. Males appear to be comfortable being friends with both sexes.
It should be noted this methodology is labor intensive as Confederates contained hundreds of Facebook friends. Although limited by having only four Facebook accounts, the confederates were of similar age and backgrounds, but having limited overlapping friends. It was noted that the white female was from a more rural hometown than other participants, and thus additional data is being collected to address this limitation.

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