The study, published recently in the journal PLOS ONE, highlights the hierarchical nature of online social media networks, where, in the social hierarchy of connections, people mostly either follow up or across; they rarely follow down.

"Most people tend to think that they are better than their friends when it comes to intelligence, memory, popularity, and other personal traits," said study led author Naghmeh Momeni Taramsari from the McGill University.

"However, a recent study by other researchers shows that this perception is false, at least in the context of online social networks. In reality, our friends really have more friends than we do, on average."

"Moreover, our friends are more active (post more material), and are more influential (their posts are viewed and passed on more often). This is known as the Generalised Friendship Paradox," Taramsari added.

After using new methods to measure user influence and the extent to which the Generalised Friendship Paradox exists in social networks, researchers said that almost all users (up to 90 percent) experience this paradox - even those with relatively high levels of activity and influence.

That's because people at any level of activity and influence tend to follow others who are more active and influential than themselves, said senior author Michael Rabbat from McGill.

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