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BYU study finds 4 reasons people use Facebook

By Carter Williams  |  Posted Jul 5th, 2017 @ 7:33pm


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PROVO — Facebook has become a common link with individuals around the world, and researchers from BYU now believe there are four types of people who use the social media website.

Those individuals are “relationship builders,” “town criers,” “selfies” and “window shoppers,” says Tom Robinson, a professor of communications at BYU and the lead author of the study.

“Relationship builders” post on the website and respond to others’ posts, using those features to build on relationships beyond the online world. “Town criers” aren’t about relationships but pushing out information or news to individuals instead of engaging with others.

“Selfies” are those who use the social media outlet to self-promote themselves and build connections, which researchers said is similar to relationship builders but selfies believe notifications are approval from others.

“Window shoppers,” on the other hand, are those who use Facebook to see what other people are doing inside of posting information and forming relationships.

Robinson said previous research indicated “relationship builders” and “selfies” existed in the realm of Facebook; however, the other groups were discovered during the process.

“There are two other groups of people that use Facebook or like Facebook for totally different reasons than what other research has been finding,” he said. “Everyone uses Facebook or we assume everyone uses Facebook for personal gratification or personal reasons. While the ‘town criers’ and ‘window shoppers’ are for personal reasons, they're using it more for kind of more looking outward as opposed to looking inward. They’re out giving announcements or looking at what everyone else is doing.”

Robinson said the study began in September 2016 and focused solely on those who use Facebook in an effort to figure what users of the site specifically liked about it. He and two other professors, Kris Boyle and Clark Callahan, put together the study.

The researchers were able to define these Facebook roles after using something called Q Methodology, as they gave test subjects 48 statements about the website and asked them to order the statements that related most to the personal views of the individuals before the subjects were interviewed, Robinson said.

“(It) allows you to look at the subjectivity of individuals and then you can observe their attitudes, opinions and beliefs,” he said. “We asked people who liked Facebook, that they really liked being on it and then the questions were basically, why do you like it?”

That left the researchers with the four common groups based on the answers given. In a news release about the study, Boyle said the results help understand the mindset of those who use social media.

“Social media is so ingrained in everything we do right now,” he said. “Most people don’t think about why they do it, but if people can recognize their habits, that at least creates awareness.”

Carter Williams
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