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How Does Snapchat Determine Your Best Friends?

Posted by Robert Hayes on October 3, 2019

Snapchat, the social network based around sharing photos, videos, and messaging that burst onto the scene in 2011, has rarely gone for any long period of time without at least one major revision to the core functionality of the app. In February of 2018, when Snapchat rolled out their controversial redesign, a number of features were added and modified, and one of the most significant changes came in the form of the Best Friends list. While the feature has always been there, the algorithm—and how your friends are displayed—was changed drastically.

Social media apps like Snapchat are built around a “friend” model. Friends in an app, much like friends in the real world, are the people with whom we interact the most and share the closest relationships. As anyone who experienced middle school or junior high can attest, the number and quality of friends that one possesses can become very important in assessing a person’s social standing. It is not surprising, that just as in middle school some people obsess about their BFFs, in Snapchat people can become very concerned about whether or not a friend of theirs appears in the “Best Friends” list. In this article, I will attempt to explain how the new algorithms work to decide who is a bestie and who fails to make the grade. I’ll also explain Snapchat’s reasoning for the way their algorithm works, and the kind of user engagement the app wants its users to pursue.

Who Are Your Best Friend on Snapchat?

Prior to 2018, the algorithm for deciding whether a friend was a BEST friend was pretty straightforweard, even if the exact details remained shrouded by Snapchat’s secrecy concerning the underlying rules of the app. Basically, Snapchat would look at your interactions with other users over the last seven days, and internally create an ordered list based on the number of times you sent people snaps, and the number of times that person sent snaps to you. Then the friends at the top of that ranking (usually from three to seven people) would be declared your BEST friends.

The system has changed since then. The new algorithm is more complicated and takes into account things like your group chat participation. There is also a rather bewildering hierarchy of emojis that are assigned to various TYPES of best friend. You can have a regular best friend, a best friend who has had that status for two weeks, a best friend for two months, an almost-best-friend, etc. You can now have as many as eight best friends. Finding out who is on your best friends list is easy: just tap the New Chat icon in the top right of the Snapchat home screen, and your best friends have their own section at the top of the friends list which will then appear.

Changing Best Friends on Snapchat

So can you edit your best friends list? Surely Snapchat understands that your Aunt Janet, even though you do snap with her every day, isn’t REALLY your best friend; that’s actually Alex, the cool but kind of inaccessible person whose snaps you yearn for. Alas, Snapchat doesn’t care about our opinions of who our friends ought to be; they care only about the outcome from their algorithm. So there are no direct tools for modifying your friends list. However, a clever person who understands the way the app works does have considerable power to shape their best friends list in the direction they prefer. Let’s take a look at how to accomplish that.

You have two ways of getting someone off your best friends list and both are relatively simple. The first way, aka “The Nuclear Option” is to unfriend or even to block the person. Bam, they are off your friends list and off your best friends list as well. However, this could lead to ill feelings if the person is actually an important part of your life, and few of us would accept “I didn’t want you on my best friends list anymore” as a good reason to block or drop someone. The second way is significantly more subtle: just stop interacting with them. You can’t control how many snaps they send you (which is still part of the algorithm) but you can refrain from responding. Usually a complete cutoff of communication will result in someone dropping off the best friends list within 24 hours. If your friends list isn’t very short, then a new best friend should replace them.

How to Make Someone Your Bestie

It takes a bit more work to proactively move someone onto your best friends list. Because the algorithm is looking at engagement over time, you can’t just volley a hundred messages with a friend in an hour and expect to appear on one another’s lists. It will take time and perseverance. If you constantly engage with that person by sending them snaps and encouraging them to reply and engage back with you, then after a few days the algorithm should be able to recognize that there has been a fundamental change in the status of your relationship, and reward you with that prized emoticon in your friends list.

Who Can See Your Snapchat Best Friends?

Before the February 2018 update, you could access the best friends lists of your friends. However, Snapchat has changed this and now the information is private.

The Last Snap

I think it’s actually a mistake to try to game the Snapchat system to make sure that the “right people” are on your best friends list. If you let the algorithm work and just snap back and forth with the people you actually want to talk to, you’ll quickly find out who your real best friends are on the app. Your Snapchat best friends do not have to be a mirror of your IRL best friends; in fact, that would be kind of pointless, because the whole idea of an app like Snapchat is to let you meet and hangout with people who aren’t readily available to you in the real world.

We have a lot more Snapchat resources for you to check out! Here’s our guide to telling who has added you on Snapchat. And if you like keeping score, you want to read our piece on how your Snapchat score is calculated.

5 thoughts on “How Does Snapchat Determine Your Best Friends?”

Name says:
So which is the number one best friend
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Jessica says:
Does the best friend list order really matter? Where like if u talk to this person the most their your first one on the list. For the second one does it mean the same thing? Like they talk to the same person at the same amount as they’re talking to you and that’s why they’re put second, or does the order just happen itself?
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Shaira says:
Is ur second BFF on the right or underneath
Reply
star says:
go to your profile and scroll down to friends, their bitmojis should be in order from first to last
Reply
Jetta says:
Okay is the second best friend the one to the right or the one to the one below???
Reply
Javi says:
So which one is the second best friend and so forth
Reply
star says:
pretty sure it’s the one on the right iykyk
Reply
goat says:
i’m pretty sure it’s the one right below it and it goes on

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