Users of Facebook's Social Network Are Mostly Anti-Social: Poll

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Facebook users are still very skeptical about socializing online. And they're slightly confused about what exactly Facebook should be used for, according to a study of user behavior by Denmark-based Red Associates. They surveyed close to 500 members of the Facebook community — hand-picked from fans of Fast Company — to learn more about how users interact online.

When did you first register for Facebook? Has it been that long? Can you even remember why you registered (Besides: All my friends are doing it!)? What did you expect the social network to deliver?

Facebook's homepage promises to help "you connect and share with the people in your life." Red Associates's study, though, suggests that users want far more, with 90% of respondents expecting that the social network will "deepen or strengthen their friendships." Very few actually believe Facebook delivers on this expectation, with more than half of respondents viewing Facebook instead as a relationship-management tool, not a useful way to deepen relationships. Just 0.7% see Facebook as only good for strengthening friendships.

Should Facebook still be considered a "social" networking site?

The study points out that even your "friends" online are not actually your friends, finding that close to 40% of respondents say they added "friends" to their Facebook network simply because it was easy. "Facebook has no intelligent mechanism for figuring out who your close friends are or who you would like them to be," the study reminds us. "Online social networks make it easy for people to accumulate friends rapidly and to make commitments easily," and in fact, "What define social networks most [is] a lack of depth in relationships."

Many users appear disappointed by this lack of intimacy, according to the survey; moreover, they are even unsure how intimate they can act on Facebook. For example, the survey asked users about their level of comfort in sharing information online. They asked respondents to rate whether the following messages were appropriate to post on Facebook:

  • My son graduated from college (92.8% feel this is appropriate)
  • My wonderful father died last night (57.2%)
  • My wife left me (10%)

Certainly, these are extreme posts, but what's interesting here is that there is roughly an even split between the number of respondents who feel sharing information about a father's death is appropriate and those who do not, suggesting, according to the study, that "people are uncertain about what's okay to express emotionally without being a turn-off."

For nearly half of all respondents, Facebook isn't considered a social network but more a public phone book or search engine. Contact is minimal and impersonal, and close to a fourth of all respondents said that Facebook has not led to a better social life.

So just how social is Facebook? Is it just good for birthday-reminders and the occasional wall post? Do you agree with the study's findings? Share below.

[Image: Tanya Zommer]

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8 Comments

  • John Vasko

    I'm shocked when I see people posting really personal things on FB. I use it for sharing information that I think people who know me might find interesting. It enhances friendships only if you are actually in contact with those people in person.

  • . Milani5

    dont underestimate the power of FB in the Y generation

    Organize For America succeeded Obama's campaign through emails & door to door canvassing.. Lobbyist need to build on FB/Twitter for 2010 presidential election, much easier!

  • Barb Gerron

    I was reluctant to join the Facebook community, but in the past 4 months, I have given it a test drive and here are my thoughts. First, the following comment, "Red Associates's study...suggests that users want far more, with 90% of respondents expecting that the social network will 'deepen or strengthen their friendships...'" indicates faulty thinking--the only one who can deepen or strengthen your friendships is YOU. A social network like FB is not going to do the work for you. You still have to start, develop and strengthen your own relationships.

    And really? Who came up with the questions for this study..."Facebook has no intelligent mechanism for figuring out who your close friends are or who you would like them to be," the study reminds us. Did the people who did this study really think that FB had an "intelligent mechanism" for determing who your close friends might be? Isn't that still up to you? Comments like this indicate that people expect way too much from a social network like FB.

    Finally, "Many users appear disappointed by this lack of intimacy, according to the survey; moreover, they are even unsure how intimate they can act on Facebook..." This comment has some truth to it. I am cautious and I see that many of the people in my groups of friends are as well. There is a general tone of lightness and fun in my group and by knowing the people you "friend," you will not be surprised by their level of intimacy. People I know who share a lot in person also share a lot on FB while people who I would characterize as shy or guarded in person stick to sharing less personal info. But you would know that if you actually knew the people on your friend's list which you should.

    I didn't know what to expect from FB and here's what I found. It is a great way to stay in touch with people near and far in whatever way you prefer. Sharing publicly does not have a limit, however, in my opinion, if you want to be very personal and intimate, that is best done in private e-mail or chats. I think the comfort level of sharing is completely up to the person sharing. If it makes a friend uncomfortable, then they always have the option of "unfriending" that person.

    It seems to me that based on the interactions I have seen, the general expectation is to have fun and keep in touch. A social network this public would not be the place for a lot of intimacy.

  • madclark

    So, are Facebook users antisocial, or just Fast Company readers?

    Facebook has proven to be a great way to reconnect with people lost to time and distance. FB helps to remove both of those. It provides a social network of contacts and I have even made some new acquaintances by way of mutual friends. It has proven a great tool for keeping up without being intrusive. If you want to know more and go deeper spend the time and read the profile. Just like any relationship—you invest time to grow or you don’t.

  • Carl S

    Maryam, you made your point, your point, your point..... did i say your point?

  • Kelly Roberts

    Ruth,

    It doesn't really matter anymore whether or not you put something too personal out on the web because there are sites out there that are posting personal information about individuals WITHOUT their consent. http://www.dirtyphonebook.com and other sites are doing this to people and it's all legal and everything.

    It doesn't matter how careful you are. If you have even 1 enemy out there that wants to spread rumors about you or post some embarrassing photos there is NOTHING that is going to stop that.

  • Maryam M.

    I post to Facebook instead of forwarding. I think many people do. Forwarding is so 2002. Posting to FB is so today. This also give customization options: those who like your posts read them, those who don't can go as far as to "hide" your posts so they don't show up in their feeds. I also use it as "informed email". When I write someone a msg/comment, I look at their page for a sec and see what they've done recently (if they are the type to post). And it's great to keep up with people far away. FB is not a replacement for actual social interaction but neither is the phone or email. I don't consider my 400+ "friends" friends and have various privacy settings for who sees what! It works for me.

  • Ruth Birkholz

    I think enough people have been "burned" and warned that their not going to put anything too personal or private out on the web, and if anyone does...they should fully anticipate all 254 of the Facebook friends to reply to their status saying "I told you so..." in return. It's a way to connect and feel a part of people's lives, but it's a "social" network not personal or intimate connection.