Making friends online is a numbers game

‘If a person is looking for friends they should be active in as many communities as possible’

Forming online friendships is an optimisation problem, according to researchers at Rice University in the US.

In order to make new friends the idea is not to simply join online communities containing people similar to you, as existing research on online friendship formation suggests, but to join as many groups as possible.

It may seem like an obvious tactic but researchers have mostly relied on homophily (i.e. the ‘birds of a feather flock together’ theory), as the main predictor for forming online friendships.

"If a person is looking for friends, they should basically be active in as many communities as possible," said Anshumali Shrivastava, assistant professor of computer science at Rice and co-author of the study.


“And if they want to become friends with a specific person, they should try to be a part of all the groups that person is a part of.”

In addition, the researchers say a person it likely to be more successful if they join or form more subcommunities with a social network so if you're looking for new online buddies, join a handful of Facebook groups or subreddits.