Study: You’re Less Active on Facebook Than You Think

February 6, 2012

11:00 am

Most of us have lamented our Facebook addiction one time or another, but it turns out that this addiction may be passive. In a February 3 study called “Why most Facebook users get more than they give,” Pew Research shows that the majority of users consume more content than they produce.

Pew explains this strange phenomenon through the presence of power users, who create overwhelmingly more content than the rest of us. They studied the activity of 269 Facebook users, who are roughly representative of the adult Facebook population, during November 2010 (after given permission, and with the help of Facebook itself).

Here is what power users look like:

    • 33% of users updated their status at least once per week
    • About 5% of users contributed and received over 100 comments in the month
    • Almost 5% of users “liked” friends’ content over 100 times per month
    • 27% of users sent at least one message per week
    • 19% of users made at least 1 friend request per week

But more surprisingly, take a look at the rest of us:

    • Half of users didn’t update their status during the month
    • 45% of users made no comments, and 49% received no comments, during the month
    • The majority of users didn’t “like” any content during the month
    • Over half of users didn’t send a private message during the month
    • 60% of users didn’t make a friend request during the month

Less common activities were tagging photos, joining groups, and especially poking.

What to make of this data? Some of the low numbers may come from inactive users who haven’t canceled their accounts. But still, Facebook may want to implement features that engage us more – and they have, with recent attempts to reorganize newsfeed content by topic and elevate posts from our closest friends. It will be intriguing to see how Timeline affects these stats; we may be more likely to post updates if we see them as part of an album of memories.

On top of that, Facebook can identify and cater to these power users – as their activity is what keeps the rest of us browsing the site. But, luckily for Facebook, it doesn’t sound like users are leaving anytime soon; the evidence doesn’t point to “Facebook fatigue,” Pew explains:

“The more time that has passed since a user started using Facebook, the more frequently he/she makes status updates, uses the ‘like’ button, comments on friends’ content, and tags friends in photos.”

Perhaps some of the “rest of us” will become power users. I certainly have; I now post my Tech Cocktail articles daily to my Facebook (perhaps to the chagrin of my friends).

Are you a power user? (Most power users specialize in one type of Facebook activity, like updating their status or “liking.”) Or do you use Facebook less than you think?

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact [email protected]

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