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The Psychology Behind Facebook

A new study from Boston University has looked at why people use Facebook. But not in the conventional ‘to keep in touch with friends’ or ‘to share photos’ sense. Oh no, this is FAR more interesting.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

The study looks at human needs (think Maslow) and attempts to explain where Facebook fits within that context. The authors’ proposition is that Facebook (and other social networks) meets two primary human needs. The first is the need to belong to a sociodemographic group of like-minded people (linked to self-esteem and self-worth). Given this ‘need to belong’, it is hypothesised that there are differences in the way people use and share on Facebook according to cultural factors (individualistic v collectivist cultures). The thing is, some studies have suggested that being active on Facebook may not improve self-esteem, so we may be kidding ourselves if that’s (partly) why we use it!

The second need is the need for self-presentation. Further studies suggest that the person people portray on Facebook IS the real person, not an idealised version. BUT, it’s a person as seen through a socially-desirable filter. In other words, we present ourselves as highly sociable, lovable and popular even if we sit in our bedrooms in the dark playing World of Warcraft ten hours a day. There’s an aspirational element to our online selves. And hey, for me that’s certainly true – I’m a miserable sod in real life!

It’s a fascinating topic area, an understanding of which could really help marketers.

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Posted by Paul Sutton

  • http://fletchertoll.com/index.php?action=profile;u=16126 Akshara Garde

    Wow that was odd. I just wrote an incredibly long
    comment but after I clicked submit my comment
    didn’t appear. Grrrr… well I’m not writing all that over
    again. Anyway, just wanted to say fantastic blog!

  • Tanvi

    Super interesting blog
    i’m a student writing a paper on the psychology behind the use of facebook
    this helped crazy amount!!
    thank you :) looking forward to reading more of your posts