Here’s an interesting new twist on personality types in the social media age: Researchers from Brigham Young University identified four kinds of Facebook users—town criers, selfies, relationship builders and window shoppers. Their findings were published in the International Journal of Virtual Communities and Social Networking.
The researchers, all communications professors at BYU, wanted to know why people log on to the social platform so they recruited a small group of Facebook users aged 18 to 32. The subjects rated how much they identified with a list of 48 statements that covered potential reasons they might use Facebook and the researchers came up with their four categories based on the subjects’ responses.
Town criers care most about sharing information and news with people in their networks and less about posting personal updates. They “want to inform everybody about what’s going on,” study co-author Tom Robinson said in the press release.
Selfies use Facebook to (unsurprisingly) post about themselves and are in a constant quest for digital validation. According to the press release, selfies identified strongly with the statement “The more ‘like’ notifications alarms I receive, the more I feel approved by my peers.”
Relationship builders log on to connect with people, and not just those they only communicate with online. “They use it as an extension of their real life, with their family and real-life friends,” Robinson said in the press release. They identified with statements like “Facebook helps me to express my love to my family and lets my family express love to me.”
Window shoppers aren’t on Facebook to engage with people, and they don’t post personal information very often. In fact, the press release describes them as feeling “a sense of obligation to be on Facebook,” and co-author Clark Callahan said window shoppers “want to see what other people are doing. It’s the social media equivalent of people watching.”
Co-author Kris Boyle noted that the majority of people have some selfie characteristics, which is particularly interesting because selfies use Facebook “to present an image of themselves, whether it’s accurate or not,” Boyle said.
According to the study authors, the findings are more than just a fascinating look at the ways we use Facebook—they’re an opportunity to evaluate why we use social media in the first place. “Social media is so ingrained in everything we do right now,” Boyle said in the press release. “And most people don’t think about why they do it, but if people can recognize their habits, that at least creates awareness.”
Read more about the study here.