PROVO, Utah — A study delving into the reasons why so many of us use Facebook so frequently boils it down to four main archetypes of Facebook users: the relationship builder, the selfie artist, the town crier, and the window shopper.
Every day, 1.28 billion people check in on Facebook at some point. The average user spends 35 minutes per day on the social media platform. A research team from Brigham Young University explored users’ motivations and patterns in their motivations for regularly logging onto the site.
“What is it about this social media platform that has taken over the world?” asks study lead author Tom Robinson in a university release. “Why are people so willing to put their lives on display? Nobody has ever really asked the question, ‘Why do you like this?’”
Robinson and his team did just that, creating a list of 48 statements that could qualify as potential reasons for a typical Facebook visit. Participants then rated each statement on a scale from “least like me” to “most like me.” The researchers interviewed the subjects after the task to get a better understanding of their motivations.
The responses led them to categorize users into four groups:
- The Relationship Builder
These users respond and react to others’ posts and use other Facebook features to build on and strengthen their non-virtual relationships. These users connected most with statements such as “Facebook helps me to express love to my family and lets my family express love to me.” Relationship builders see the social network as a valuable tool for maintaining connections with others. “They use it as an extension of their real life, with their family and real-life friends,” Robinson said.
- The Selfie
They may be annoying to many, but Selfies thrive on the attention that Facebook provides them. They post many pictures of themselves along with general text updates, promoting their own brand, in a sense, to their followers and friends. They post to collect interactions: likes, reactions, comments, etc. They responded most strongly to the statement, “The more ‘like’ notification alarms I receive, the more I feel approved by my peers.”
- The Town Crier
These Facebook users have little interest in building their own profile and are more interested in sharing stories with others. Instead of bringing attention to themselves or posting photos frequently like The Selfies, they prefer to inform their followers about news, events, memes, and anything else happening around them that they feel is worth sharing. They essentially “want to inform everybody about what’s going on,” explains Robinson.
- The Window Shopper
Window shoppers generally want to know what everyone else is doing. Consider them the folks sitting on the park benches of Facebook. They monitor their news feeds, but they don’t post personal or news information often. Instead, they’re keeping tabs on others. They tended to identify with the statement, “I can freely look at the Facebook profile of someone I have a crush on and know their interests and relationship status.”
Robinson, who dubs himself a relationship builder, says it’s not uncommon for people to relate to more than one category, but generally participants identified with one of the four groups more than any of the others.
The study’s results were published in the International Journal of Virtual Communities and Social Networking.