Are you a covert window shopper or an attention-craving selfie? Study reveals four distinct Facebook types

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Anna Brech
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With an average 1.28 billion people tuning into Facebook every day, a new study has revealed four distinct personality types who use the eponymous social platform.

Researchers from Brigham Young University in Utah explored what it is about Facebook’s magnetic charm that means we’re willing to typically spend around 35 minutes a day scrolling through it.  

“Why are people so willing to put their lives on display?” asks the study’s lead author Tom Robinson. “Nobody has ever really asked the question, ‘Why do you like this?’’”

For their study, Robinson’s team compiled a list of 48 statements identifying potential reasons people use Facebook. Participants sorted the statements in a way that reflected their personal connection to the ideas, then rated each statement on a scale from “most like me” to “least like me.”

The researchers then interviewed each subject to get a deeper understanding of their rankings and ratings.

They used this data to form four different types of Facebook user; all of which will sound uncannily familiar to anyone who regularly uses the feed.

Robinson says people may identify with more than one category – most of us have selfie tendencies, for example – but the majority will be drawn to one kind above all others: “Everybody we’ve talked to will say, ‘I’m part of this and part of this, but I’m mostly this.’”

So, which one are you? Find out, below:

The doting relationship builder

Relationship builders primarily use Facebook as a means to bolster their ties with their nearest and dearest, and those that they cherish offline.

“They use it as an extension of their real life, with their family and real-life friends,” Robinson says. 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.”

Typical post: “Darling sis Happy Birthday!! ??? Love you to the moon and back, thank you for being there always – even if you did nick my favourite Nirvana top aged 15, ha… love you, beautiful lady! ???xxxxx”

Spirit animal: Jo March from Little Women, Elle from Legally Blonde

The rallying town crier

Compared to relationship builders, town criers experience a much larger gap between their real and virtual worlds.

They’re not bothered about sharing personal photos or stories. Instead, they “want to inform everybody about what’s going on,” Robinson says. “They’re pushing out information.”

Just like town criers of a bygone era, they share breaking news and announce events. But aside from spreading the word on what’s happening, they may otherwise neglect their Facebook profile page and prefer to update family and friends through alternative means.

Typical post: “Cannot BELIEVE the DUP are getting into bed with the Tories. Where does this leave the Good Friday agreement? And don’t even get me started on Brexit fallout – what a s**tshow… [link to breaking news]”

Spirit animal: Lisa Simpson or SATC’s Miranda Hobbes

The attention-craving selfies

Shout-out to the selfie-lovers (you know who you are). Like relationship builders, selfies 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.”

Selfies, says study co-author Kris Boyle, use the platform “to present an image of themselves, whether it’s accurate or not.”

Typical post: [Flawless close-up photo] “S’cuse the random squinting but gone for the lob!! Question is, is it a magenta or coral pink lipstick kinda cut? #Decisions #MyLife #FirstWorldProblems #HaircutWednesdays”

Spirit animal: Cher from Clueless, SATC’s Carrie Bradshaw

The curious window shoppers

Like town criers, window shoppers feel a sense of social obligation to be on Facebook – and they rarely share personal thoughts or photos.

Their main goal, whether they realise it or not, is observation. They “want to see what other people are doing. It’s the social-media equivalent of people watching,” says study co-author Clark Callahan. 

Window shoppers agree 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.”

Typical post: Nothing. Too busy watching…

Spirit animal: Miss Marple, obviously

Top image: Nate Edwards/BYU Photo, inline images: iStock


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Anna Brech

Anna Brech is a freelance journalist and former editor for Her six-year stint on the site saw her develop a vociferous appetite for live Analytics, feminist opinion and good-quality gin in roughly equal measure. She enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content but has a soft spot for books and escapist travel content.