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Researchers identify four types of Facebook user - which category do you fall into?

Mirror logo Mirror 08-07-2017 Sophie Curtis
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Every month, 2 billion people log into Facebook to browse their news feeds, check up on their friends, and post updates - with the average user spending 35 minutes a day on the social network.

But the way people use Facebook differs widely, with some using it to broadcast information, some as an extension of their real-world relationships, and some as a source of information.

In a recent study by Brigham Young University, researchers compiled a list of 48 statements identifying potential reasons people use Facebook.

Subjects were then asked to sort the statements in a way that reflected their personal connection to the ideas, then rate each statement on a scale from "most like me" to "least like me."

Finally, the researchers interviewed each subject to get a deeper understanding of their rankings and ratings.

Following the study, the researchers were able to identify four distinct group of users: relationship builders, town criers, selfies and window shoppers.

Each of these categories displays a unique set of characteristics:

Relationship builders

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Relationship builders post, respond to others' posts and use additional Facebook features primarily in an attempt to fortify relationships that exist beyond their virtual world.

"They use it as an extension of their real life, with their family and real-life friends," said Tom Robinson, lead author on the report.

People in this group identified strongly with such statements as "Facebook helps me to express love to my family and lets my family express love to me."

Town criers

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Town criers, on the other hand, experience a much larger gap between their real and virtual worlds.

Unconcerned with sharing photos, stories or other information about themselves, they instead "want to inform everybody about what's going on," Robinson said.

Like town criers from days of yore, "they're pushing out information." They repost news stories, announce events - but may otherwise neglect their profile pages, preferring to update family and friends through alternative means.

Selfies

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Selfies use Facebook to self promote. Like relationship builders, they post pictures, videos and text updates - but unlike relationship builders, they're focused on getting attention, likes and comments.

Study participants in this category identified highly with the statement "The more 'like' notification alarms I receive, the more I feel approved by my peers."

Study co-author Kris Boyle said that Selfies use the platform "to present an image of themselves, whether it's accurate or not."

Window shoppers

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Window shoppers, like town criers, feel a sense of social obligation to be on Facebook but rarely post personal information.

Unlike town criers, these users "want to see what other people are doing," said study co-author Clark Callahan. "It's the social-media equivalent of people watching."

Window shoppers identified with such statements as "I can freely look at the Facebook profile of someone I have a crush on and know their interests and relationship status."

Which are you?

Facebook users may identify to some degree with more than one category - Boyle noted that most people have at least some selfie tendencies, for example. But users typically identify more with one than others.

"Everybody we've talked to will say, 'I'm part of this and part of this, but I'm mostly this,'" said Robinson, who calls himself a relationship builder.

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Boyle added that social media is so ingrained in everything we do now that it is important to think about how we behave on these platforms and why.

"Most people don't think about why they do it, but if people can recognise their habits, that at least creates awareness," he said.

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