Are smarter people shunning Facebook?

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Some people Facebook during sex, some will update their status whilst driving, some will do it to slag off their boss, whilst others will use it to stalk an ex.  With over 800 million users spread around the world there are no doubt many more reasons behind familiar uses of the site.

New research from Boston University attempts to take the lid off of our social networking behaviour however by asking why people use Facebook.  The study's hypothesis was that are motivations were typically split into two camps:

  1. The desire to belong
  2. The desire to show off

Inside Facebook

What is more interesting (imo) is a breakdown of who uses Facebook.  The study conducted demographic research into the kind of people that are heavy Facebook users versus those that aren't so keen.

The study joins other research into Facebook usage.  For instance past research has shown that narcissists are perhaps not surprisingly heavy Facebook users, with them using the site as a means of self promotion.  Another study revealed that the wall is the favourite feature of neurotic folks, whilst shy users were found to like using Facebook most, even though they generally have much fewer friends than non-shy people.

What is interesting however is that people classed as disciplined, organised and achievement-orientated reported the lowest Facebook usage of all.  So are smarter types turning away from Facebook?  Is it that they find belonging in more substantial ways or don't feel the need to boost their self-esteem by self promoting extensively?

If reaching out to this particular demographic it might be worth considering whether Facebook is really the platform for you to do so.  This is especially the case if you're using Facebook to screen potential recruits for instance.  With so called Facebook Resisters growing in number, reflected in a slowdown in Page growth reported yesterday, maybe the time has come for people to take an active stance and detox from Facebook for a while.

34 thoughts on “Are smarter people shunning Facebook?

  1. I don't know if I'd regard myself as smart but I generally can't be bothered with Facebook. I have a relatively small network of close friends and I keep in touch with them in real life rather than online. That works pretty well for me thus far.

  2. I use facebook as a page but not so much 'personally'. The purpose of the page isn't self promotion, in fact I rarely if ever post anything personal on it, but rather as a forum for debate and discussion from a wide variety of people to help me (and hopefully those using the platform) get a more secular view.

    I enjoy a good ol' fashioned debate and facebook is, generally, an alright place to do that. What's wrong with that?

    You can't have the same kind of conversation with a whole group of people you respect and value on the telephone without incurring costs for tele-conferencing; a huge amount of co-ordination and a phone bill!

    I guess the same 'accusations' could be fired at anyone using any social media platform beit twitter; blogging; digg; Kiltr and so on.

    How can you generalise the predominant characteristics of 800 million users without obvious blind spots and pitfalls?

    • Yes, fair point Colin. There will always be some diamonds in the rough. Personally speaking though I get so much more out of blogs and even the good old fashioned discussion forum. Both allow for easy, not to mention lengthy, discussions that are often not happening on Facebook.

      Even for things like the Economist FB page, I'd get much better user insight from the comments on their website than I ever get on their FB page. Ditto guys like HBR, and to a great extent CMI as well.

      That isn't to say that Facebook doesn't have its uses, I'm just not sure B2B type things are really it.

  3. I wonder how many Facebook accounts are just 2nd accounts built to help with Farmville, or as your other article suggests, fake accounts created to help make brands seem more popular?

  4. I agree re: B2B but think there's still a significant and successful B2C market there – virgin media put an announcement out about broadband being down; O2 and other mobile networks update their customers using it; BlackBerry when they had their massive outage and so on.

    Cloud's also had a fair bit of interest generated through social media although more twitter than facebook.

    One noticeable absence – Apple. King of the 3G and app on the mobile phone so you're always 'connected' yet they're not to be found on social media (that I can find – many spoofs but I can't find a genuine one)?

    Re: B2C – Central Scotland Police won a national award for their use of social media in policing!

    • Yes, I'm certainly not dismissing Facebook as a useful platform as it certainly has its uses. To use psychological vernacular though, I think it suits type 1 style decisions, ie those that are intuitive and instinctive and don't demand a great deal of thought.

      With any social media presence you need to think things through regarding how it'll be used. I've posted up a matrix to help out.
      http://adigaskell.org/2012/01/03/do-you-

    • Nothing at all. I use Facebook and already had people I don't know bully me online over two weeks of having the new account. Dim wit bullies seen to be popular on there.

  5. I agree with you. Smarter people also know that Facebook is isolating us (as people are using Facebook as a substitute not just as another tool) from the face to face interactions of real networks of close family and friends. These relations take time and effort to build but are ultimately more rewarding.

  6. <What is interesting however is that people classed as disciplined, organised and achievement-orientated reported the lowest Facebook usage of all. So are smarter types turning away from Facebook? Is it that they find belonging in more substantial ways or don't feel the need to boost their self-esteem by self promoting extensively?>In addition to these reasons, it may be that they are smart enough to know… this is risky behavior – anything I post can be mis-interpreted and come back to bite me… this is a huge time suck – I could be doing better things with my time…. this might be negatively impacting my home life – spending too much time on line takes away from the family. My B2B business does not do well on FB but my cliets B2C businesses do. I use it for inbound information as well – I follow a lot of businesses and I have them arranged into lists so that I can pull up all SEO posts at once, and all Marketing posts at once etc.

    • That seems a sensible use Abigail. Do you find you get better seo/marketing content on Facebook than other sources or do you find people post much the same thing across all platforms?

  7. Great post and analogy Adi.

    In my opinion every social network has a different social party going on and most the social media pros are agreed that, Facebook profile is for personal connections, Twitter is for breaking the news and Google + hanging out with like minded people.

    And I totally agree with this concept and this is how I am using my social network profiles.

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  11. I use facebook when I can, around life and work commitments and know many smart people who use it even for both reasons. I agree with some of what you're saying, particularly with how different social media sites attrack a certain type. But the answer to your question, I don't think that's the case at all.

  12. …and what do they use it for. If they are posting inane updates about their own life (many posts) then I'd expect the narcissists reign large. Is there a useful way to use it. What about LinkedIn. My sense is LI has a done a good job cultivating a "professional, useful" and smart? image.

  13. Well, given the fact the people are hiding back of fake Facebook profiles, they try to do anything possible that they couldn't if they had a normal profile and not a fake one. There comes later also other incidents that several times we saw destroying reputations. Nice article Adi.

  14. I keep a Facebook account open because it gives friends and family a little insight into my days and it lets me keep in touch with them in return. Instead of trying to use my account to reveal my innermost feelings about anything, though, I deliberately keep my status updates light.

  15. I have tried Facebook but not that keen. I mainly look when my kids text me to say there is something funny on there. I have just joined the twitteratti though and am loving it. Mainly for the challenge of not being verbose.

  16. I have noticed that among my male acquaintances in my age group, (late 60s), that while the wives ALL have FB accounts, none of the husbands do. In fact, most of the males in the group are openly hostile toward FB. Their jobs span the whole gamut – teachers, technical types, law enforcement, agriculture, insurance, and government. I tried FB for a few weeks. I did not however post a photo of myself. Once I found out what FB was about, I just ignored it for a few months, neither opening it or posting anything to it. Finally, I just terminated my account, and while I was in the mood, I also terminated my LinkedIn account. I have discussed FB with my male friends and we are in agreement that the main reason for not using FB was perceived loss of personal privacy. That factor far outweighed any advantages of FB. E-mail is quite sufficient for our needs.

  17. I was like the introvert at first, logging on to Facebook once in a blue moon. But now that I've been building my own business, I schedule it in chunks… no more than twice a day.

    I'm very "disciplined, organised and achievement-orientated" and so keep my usage of the site to a minimum, or rather, to a necessity… sometimes it's necessary to have conversations with friends; to see what's going on in a group; or to get a cool picture-quote for a post.

    There's lots of inspiration to be found on Facebook, too, if you know where to look and stay disciplined in not getting lost or sidetracked. And make lists! Be sure to make lists. The more organised you are, and the more you manage your time, the less you'll be on Facebook, unless, like me, you have a business group/team and use a private Facebook Group to centralize your training.

    Anyway, thanks for this article!

  18. It looks like people do use Facebook for a few different reasons. Some folks just want to feel included, so they consistently update their status, and make an effort to communicate with friends. Others take advantage of Facebook for business reasons. After all, it is a wonderful way to help promote your business and reach a broader audience. Then there are those who like to boast and post photos of themselves with minimal clothing on. These people need reassurance that they are attractive or appealing to others. As for those who avoid Facebook, it is likely because it serves them no purpose whatsoever. If you are not really into posting your life online, and seeing old buddies from high school, Facebook is not that appealing.

  19. I do think that people who want to get more done and achievement oriented use less Facebook. I see it in my social circle, the ones who are goal oriented mostly use less Facebook.

    Personally I use Facebook to keep people updated about my blog, see upcoming events and keep updated with certain Facebook pages/communities. Most of what your "friends" post is utter distraction..

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