Psych Central’s April Fool’s Day Joke for 2011 was an article that read: “Facebook Revealed to be Psychology Experiment Gone Wrong.” The author used a fake source of Harvard University and several quotes from ‘professor of psychology’ Mark Zuckerberg. This article seemed pretty believable…for about a day.
The researchers behind this project claimed to be interested in “whether or not people in the class would immediately become competitive and try and gain as many friends as possible.” And though this research experiment is far from the truth, the psychological implications of Facebook are certainly a reality.
Rishi Bandopadhay of PsyBlog equated Facebook networking to a competitive sport. He listed 7 rules to ‘get ahead’ using Facebook.
- Get between 100 and 300 friends. (You don’t want to look like a loner, or like you are trying too hard)
- Court attractive friends (Walther et al. (2008) found that attractive friends boosted the perceived attractiveness of participant’s profiles)
- Understand the 7 motivations (Joinson (2008) found 7 basic motivations for using Facebook: connecting with old or distant friends, social surveillance (see what old friends are up to, but without talking to them), looking up people met offline, virtual people watching, status updating and content)
- Don’t let your partner use Facebook (Muise et al. (2009) found that the more time spent on Facebook, the more jealousy)
- Guard your privacy
- Display your real self
- Use Facebook to get a job
Is Facebook really this competitive? I can’t remember the last time I noted how many Facebook friends someone had or judged their popularity by their friends’ good looks. Facebook can also tell you a lot about someone’s personality.
Buffardi and Campbell of the University of Georgia found that individuals’ level of activity on their social networking website is strongly correlated to their level of narcissism; this finding is relatively obvious. It’s easy to see which friends of ours, whose ‘activities’ constantly show up on our newsfeed, are self-centered.
Next Orr, Sisic, Ross, Simmering, and Arseneault set out to study correlations of shyness to various aspects of social networking websites. They found that shy people spend considerably more time on Facebook than people who are not; however, these shy people also had considerably fewer friends, despite their increased time spent on Facebook. So the quiet kid who sits in the back of your Statistics class has probably Facebook stalked you, but you’ll never be receiving a friend request because that person does not have the guts to hit “Send Request.”
Psych Central– Facebook Revealed to be a Psychology Experiment Gone Wrong
PsyBlog– Facebook: 7 Highly Effective Habits
The Layman’s Guide to Psychology– The Psychology of Twitter, Facebook, and other Social Networking Devices