What drives you to log into Facebook? Feedback on your posts? News? Games? The chance to meet new friends?
If you said yes to any of these, you might have a Facebook dependency. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you have an addiction. And it may not be a bad thing at all, according to Amber Ferris, Ph.D., an assistant professor of communication at the University of Akron who studies Facebook user trends.
Ferris said using Facebook as a tool to meet one’s goals is what leads to dependency on the site. She is quick to point out that this dependency is not the same as an addiction. For example, you might be dependent on a grocery store for your food needs, but it doesn’t mean you are addicted to going there.
In fact, the reason why people use Facebook determines the level of dependency they have on the social network. For example, she has found that people who use Facebook to gain a deeper understanding of themselves and meet new friends were the most dependent on Facebook overall.
For the study, Ferris and Erin Hollenbaugh, Ph.D., an associate professor of communication studies at Kent State University, evaluated 301 Facebook users between the ages of 18 and 68 who post on the site at least once a month.
Their findings reveal that those who perceive Facebook as helpful in gaining a better understanding of themselves go to the site to meet new people and to get attention from others. Also, people who use Facebook to gain a deeper understanding of themselves tend to have agreeable personalities, but lower self-esteem than others.
“They might post that they went to the gym. Maybe they’ll share a post expressing a certain political stance or personal challenge they’re facing. They rely on feedback from Facebook friends to better understand themselves,” Ferris said.
Ferris explains that some users observe how others cope with problems and situations similar to their own “and get ideas on how to approach others in important and difficult situations.”
Other Facebook dependency signs are based on the users’ needs for information or entertainment. In other words, a user knows about the local festival scheduled for this weekend thanks to Facebook.
In their previous studies, “Facebook Self-disclosure: Examining the Role of Traits, Social Cohesion, and Motives” (2014) and “Predictors of Honesty, Intent, and Valence of Facebook Self-disclosure” (2015) published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, Ferris and Hollenbaugh also uncovered personality traits common among specific types of Facebook users.
For example, individuals who use Facebook to develop new relationships tend to be extroverted. Extroverts are more open to sharing their personal information online, but are not always honest with their disclosures, Ferris said.
The most positive posts online come from those who have high self-esteem, she said.
“Those who post the most and are the most positive in posts do so to stay connected with people they already know and to gain others’ attention,” Ferris says. “This makes a lot of sense — if you are happy with your life, you are more likely to want to share that happiness with others on social media.”
The researchers presented their paper at the National Communication Association conference in Las Vegas.
Source: University of Akron