RA3: Changes in Use and Perception of Facebook

I hate when I forget to publish things… Does it count that I wrote this in EverNote on March 20th?

Lampe, C., Ellison, N., & Steinfield, C. (2008). Changes in use and perception of Facebook. Proceedings of the 2008 ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work. doi:10.1145/1460563.1460675

The purpose of this study was to examine if users perceived and used Facebook differently over a 3 year period (from 2006-2008). Many studies previously done on the use of Facebook has taken place at a static point in time, as opposed to a period of time, which means that changes made since then may or may not have altered the perception of the site. Research questions to be answered are as followed:

How has the reported use of Facebook to interact with other members changed over time?
Do people still use FB mostly to stay in touch with existing offline networks?

How has the perception of audience on Facebook changed over time?
Do people still assume that their FB profile is only viewed by peers?

How have the attitudes of users towards Facebook changed over time?
Do people still believe that their profiles portray them both accurately and positively?

The researchers conducted surveys about use and perceptions of Facebook, using randomized samples of MSU undergraduate students. To track possible changes over them, these surveys were done in 2006, 2007, and 2008.

Questions that were asked were as follows:
“I use Facebook to…”
“Since you have created your profile, who do you think has looked at it?”
“Please rate the following attitudes you have towards Facebook:”

Interviews were then conducted within the group of respondents, totaling to 18 interviews, where students were asked more in depth about their Facebook activity and choices.

The researchers found that Facebook use remains consistent over time – Users continue to utilize Facebook to keep in touch of offline friends. This data is often reflected in other research about Facebook usage. However, some interview respondents also admitted to using Facebook to find out more about people they intend on socializing with or dating in the future.

In terms of using Facebook to learn more about people in class, numbers increased slightly. This might be due to the change in Facebook interface in 2007 when the course list was removed, making it harder to find classmates.

The number of friends and time spent on Facebook increased at first and then leveled off, which from interviews, suggest that new users spend time adding people as friends and getting used to the site. After a while, this behavior lessens as time is more spent seeing what is happening to friends instead of expanding their friend base. Also, new users are more likely to use Facebook to “Find people to date” or “Meet new people” than long term users.

As for perception of audiences, users believed that strangers were less likely to view their profile in later years. This might be due to changes in the Facebook interface as well, since the creation of the News Feed, the removal of the “Browse Network” option, and increase privacy settings makes finding viewing profiles a different process. They also believed that family members were more likely to view their profile in later years, likely due to the change in who could obtain a Facebook profile. Changes and new features such as these were found to make the site more compelling for some and deterred others.

Finally, attitudes of the site has changed over time, likely because of the change in features offered or because the change in population. For example, Facebook was found to be more integrated in daily routines and everyday activities than in the past. Fewer people consider it “just a fad”, as more and more are becoming attached to the service and the accessibility of information it provides.

This article was easy to follow and the experiment conducted presents data well, however, I thought that the actual results of the experiment were somewhat predictable. For example, much previous research has proven that users utilize social network sites to keep in touch with offline contacts, and while this article examines that through a period of time as oppose to one instance, the results were the same. In this case, I would not say much was contributed to the greater body of knowledge from that finding. Other findings proved to be more beneficial, focusing on how users perceived Facebook and their audience. These perceptions changed over time, which were likely due to interface design changes, giving future designers information about how changes effect user perception.

Overall, I found the results to be pretty interesting and highly relevant to my interesting in interactive design. Change does in fact alter how people perceive and use things, and this was a great example of that. Facebook users may bicker a lot when changes are brought about, but this research shows that it does not cause them to feel significantly less about the network site; after all, attachment to the site increased! Perhaps users feel they have invested too much into it to leave when a disliked change occurs, or maybe there is no other alternative network site they feel is superior enough to change over to. Maybe these changes were made for the better and they grew to like them. I’m guessing it’s a little bit of all the above, but it would be interesting to discover what is the driving force that causes users to stay with a service when unfavorable changes to it occur.


4 thoughts on “RA3: Changes in Use and Perception of Facebook

  1. I had Facebook in high school and only added my friends. Once I got to college, I do remember that first semester using the search to find people to play tennis with. Since then though I do not really seek out anyone to be friends with. I am only friends with people I know. So I agree with their findings that new users often “find people to date” or “meet new people.”

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  3. Interesting article! Do agree understand that people bicker quite often when changes are made. Did you know this is actually one of the insights from psychology/human behavior that designers use to apply on their design? Think this is mind blowing.

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