A recent study on happiness and pleasure by the University of Canterbury in New Zealand got a lot of press for determining what we enjoy most (sex, alcohol) and what we find most meaningful (sex, religion). But at the other end of the spectrum, another item ranked low on happiness (just ahead of work) and dead-last for meaning: Facebook.
For a place where we spend so much of our collective resource, it seems odd that Facebook is seen as such a meaningless use of time.
Social desirability bias or for realsies?
I wrote yesterday about a recent Pew study that determined that many Facebook users went on temporary hiatus from the social behemoth. I concluding that it is unlikely that two-thirds of users could participate in this type of behavior given the persistent increase in time on site. I mentioned social desirability bias as a potential influencer in the study, pointing out that Pew had published contradictory findings in an earlier report stating that there was no evidence of “Facebook fatigue.” In a paper about social desirability bias in Journal of Consumer Research, indirect questioning is described as an effective tool to mitigate people posturing themselves in the best light. Incidentally, in the Pew study respondents were asked explicitly, “Have you ever voluntarily taken a break from using Facebook for a period of several weeks or more?” One assumes the New Zealand study was presented as a closed-ended rank-able list as well.
People are spending an unprecedented amount of time on Facebook (and social networks in general). People clearly are getting some (probably a lot) of value from their interactions and content consumption on Facebook. So why are people compelled to diminish their social participation in mixed company?
Is Facebook like online dating
My wife and I met online, and at the time we were irrationally opaque about where we’d met. From a pragmatic standpoint, it makes a lot of sense to use a tool where all of the users have similar objectives. But in mixed company it seemed a little taboo to discuss. I think it has a lot to do with feeling inferior for resorting to something unconventional. I suspect there is a similar feeling that causes people to diminish their participation on social networks.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably privy to ComScore reports that show Facebook time on site to be nearly an hour a day, and you probably know Facebook has more than a billion users, but I wonder if the general public understands the extent that their friends and neighbors are using social networks? And I wonder if we diminish our participation in social networks because we maintain an illusion that our social connections should be maintained in a more traditional way?
What do you think? Is Facebook meaningless or do people tend to diminish its value? Is there a stigma associated with being a Facebooker?