There are, according to some new data research, four types of Facebook user: the “Selfie”, the “Town Crier”, the “Window Shopper”, and the “Relationship Builder”. Considering that there are now 2 billion users of the ludicrously popular social network, this means that you can subdivide humanity, as of 2017, by this somewhat quixotic quadrant.
So which type are you? Let’s break them down.
The “Selfie” is fairly self-explanatory. It’s all about self-promotion for these boys and girls, snapping photographs of their grinning/smug/pouting/nonchalant faces and broadcasting them incessantly out into the virtual ether for the entire world to see. Their aim is almost always to get as many likes, comments, and attention as possible – with no upper limit.
Importantly, they use Facebook to present an image of themselves that they like, regardless of its accuracy. It’s a form of information control, a way to culture an atmosphere of them for the planet to buy into. Likes translate directly into social approval.
The “Relationship Builders” are quite different. They use Facebook regularly enough to post things, respond to others, and engage in debates, conversations, and generally try to build connections online, either by making new friends or keeping in touch with old ones. For these people, Facebook is an extension of their real life; it is a way to digitize empathy, essentially.
“Town Criers” are the opposite of the members of this cohort, in that the gap between their virtual life and real life is huge. Instead of focusing on their lives or the lives of their friends and families, and posting about personal matters, they see themselves as a source of news. They share articles, comment on current events, and announce major events to the world as soon as they possibly can.
Finally, “Window Shoppers” are those that feel socially obliged to be on Facebook, much like the "Town Criers" do. However, their motivation isn’t to inform the planet about the latest in global affairs or hot-button issues; rather, they drift from page to page and merely observe the behaviors, posts, and digital lives of others. They’re a bit like an Attenborough watching the masses of strange (human) creatures in the wild before them do their natural thing – which in this case is cultivate an online life for themselves.
These categories were concocted by a team at Brigham Young University (BYU), who compiled a list of 48 statements that elucidated why people use Facebook. They then got subjects to look through them and pick the statements that most apply to their own activity, placing them on a sliding scale from “most” to “least like me”.
Writing in the fantastically specific International Journal of Virtual Communities and Social Networking, the team acknowledge that people can relate to more than one category, but apparently most people identify strongly with one of them.
The researchers make a comparison to the diagnoses of chronic behaviors and addictions in the real world.
“Social media is so ingrained in everything we do right now,” study co-author Kris Boyle, an assistant professor at BYU’s School of Communications, said in a statement. “Most people don't think about why they do it, but if people can recognize their habits, that at least creates awareness.”
Considering that the average Facebook user spends around 35 minutes per day on the platform – which translates to 213 hours per year – it’s probably good to begin to categorize the types of people we are when we leap online and leave reality behind.