5 Results from (Landmark?) Studies About Facebook
Since Facebook was launched in 2004, researchers have studied the relationship between human behavior and use of the online social networking site. Here are some results.
1. More Facebook = more other good stuff.
People who score high on Facebook use are more likely to have social capital, which is a term psychologists give to all of the cool things you get by being connected to others (a cup of sugar, a ride to the airport, a longer life, those types of things). Although we don’t know if Facebook use causes an increase in capital, those who did this study argue that online networking sites allow us to better maintain surface-level relationships that only require the occasional catching-up. “Surface-level? I have deep and meaningful relationships with ALL my Facebook friends!” [Meanwhile on wall of friend from third grade: “Happy birthday amigo!”] Rumor is Mark Zuckerberg decided on Facebook ‘friend’ after hesitantly saying no to the term ‘acquaintance’.
2. Most of us are showing our true colors, virtually.
An article published in Psychological Science showed that the Facebook profiles of most people tend to reflect their actual personality, as opposed to some idealistic picture of the way they wished to be perceived. This is great news for those interested in conducting very thorough identity theft.
3. Having too many Facebook friends makes you look like you have no friends.
As you are probably aware, we use more than physical attributes to make judgments of others (depending on what you like, someone driving a red Ferrari might look awesome, or ridiculous). In 2008, researchers showed a curvilinear relationship between perceived attractiveness and one’s friend count on Facebook (see Figure, not drawn to scale). Subjects who were shown Facebook profiles with 302 friends gave higher ratings of attractiveness compared to those seeing profiles with 102 friends. But, as the number of friends increased to 502, then 702, and then 902, ratings of physical attractiveness continually plummeted–somewhere after around 300 friends, having more online connections can apparently start to seem a bit… fishy.
4. Facebook ENHANCES life…?!
In a 2008 study, those who reported more Facebook use were also the ones who reported more life-enjoyment… but before becoming the first person to live entirely in/on/with Facebook, remember the results of this study were correlational.
5. Keep your Facebook friends close and your enemies closer.
Posting comments on the wall of someone you’re not fond of is one way to get them less liked by others… That’s one application for the results of this next study. Picture this: You decide to take a weekend trip to Las Vegas with your closest friends to see your all-time favorite entertainer, Carrot Top. Because you are such faithful show-goers, the hotel comps you front row tickets where you get pulled on stage and help perform an absolutely unbelievable feat of human talent in front of thousands of amazed onlookers. Upon returning home the following day, a friend writes the following message on your Facebook wall: “Great time in Vegas! You were amazing last night!” Uh oh. For everyone on the outside of the story, it just got easier to assume you were doing something with someone’s “carrot top” instead of being on stage with Mr. Top. The authors of this study claim that these types of messages actually have varying effects for men and women. For women, wall posts about their questionable behavior caused others to view them as less attractive, while men were deemed more attractive.