Good news, introverts...
It's no secret that, statistically speaking, our friends are probably more popular than we are. On Facebook, your friends will have more friends than you; on Twitter your followers will have more followers than you; in real life, your sexual partners will have more partners than you. This is known as the friendship paradox.
Most people have a few friends, while a small number of people have lots of friends. People with a ton of friends are more likely to be one of your friends in the first place. Extroverts tend to have more friends (because that's just who they are), so they're disproportionately represented in social networks. This means everyone's network is more extroverted than it is in the real world.
The friendship paradox is more evident in extroverts, which makes sense; extroverts tend to be around more people (they thrive on it), many being extroverts themselves, and this results in what is known as network extraversion bias — people's social networks will tend to be overpopulated with extroverts and underpopulated with introverts.
In a study published in Psychological Science, researchers Daniel C. Feiler and Adam M. Kleinbaum of Tuck Business School found that social networks are systematically misrepresentative of the broader social environment. There could be a societal bias toward believing other people are more extroverted than they actually are.
The researchers also found that introverts have a better grasp of reality and a better understanding of the world because they don't apply the friendship paradox to other areas of life, simply because they're less familiar with the concept.
"If you're more extroverted, you might really have a skewed view of how extroverted people are in general," Feiler said. "If you're very introverted you might actually have a pretty accurate idea."
For the study, 284 new MBA students were surveyed twice — once at five weeks after orientation, and again at 11 weeks. Participants were given a class roster and asked to say which were the people they socialized with. Following the second survey, the subjects took the Big Five Inventory, a well-known test created to evaluate personality traits, including extraversion.
For the most part, the data from the study showed that network extraversion bias exists, and it's much more evident in the networks of extroverts. The degree of bias was surprising to the researchers. They also found that only the most introverted people (just one percent of the population) are likely to have networks that are representative of the population as a whole.
"The skew gets really extreme the more extroverted you are," Feiler said.
The rest of us view our social world through a distorted lens — one that makes us feel less popular and loved than our friends, and gives us the idea that others are way more social than they actually are. This could have a major effect on job performance, relationships, and self-esteem.
"There's a tendency to wonder, 'Am I normal?' And our research suggests that you're probably more normal than you think," Feiler said.
Remember: social media isn't a mirror to how things are. Many times, it's a projection of a fantasy of the way people want things to be, and an introvert can tell you that.