The Four Faces of Facebook

Quartz: “Anyone who uses Facebook can safely assume that to the company we are all one type of one thing: bundles of sellable data … Now a new study, published in the International Journal of Virtual Communities and Social Networking, confirms that Facebook has a Rashomon effect: various user groups interpret the experience of using it very differently. Surprisingly, however, the researchers also found they could easily categorize users into four broad types: ‘relationship builders,’ ‘window shoppers,’ ‘town criers,’ and ‘selfies’.”

Relationship builders: “A sample statement that relationship builders identified with was ‘Facebook helps me to express love to my family and lets my family express love to me.’ As the researchers explain in the study, this gang does not consider Facebook an ‘open virtual social society but rather a mini-hub site for personal storytelling, where information freely flows between friends and family’.” Window Shoppers: “Driven by ‘a sense of social obligation’ to be on Facebook, window shoppers see Facebook as an inescapable part of modern life, but they very rarely divulge personal information, share photos, or write updates. Nor do they do much liking or commenting.”

Town Criers: “Unlike relationship builders, their virtual world does not resemble their real life. They might broadcast information they feel compelled to share to a wide range of close and distant connections, but they’re not looking for a follow-up—or not online anyway … Most town criers would rather pick up the phone, text, or direct message someone for an actual conversation.” Selfies: “Selfies routinely use the same Facebook features as relationship builders … but they do it primarily to call attention to themselves, say the researchers behind this study … One seductive quality of online interaction generally, Boyle notes, is that people are able to create a better—or different—versions of themselves.”


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