URC

Motives that Predict Liking and the Usage of Facebook

Ashley E. Bohnert
Jennifer L. Hughes
Lexi Pulice-Farrow
Agnes Scott College

Keywords:  Facebook, social networking sites, motives, predictors, usage, satisfaction

Abstract

Facebook has become one of the most popular social networking sites. A survey of 666 users was used to determine motives that were predictors of liking and usage of Facebook. The study was based on self-reports of users through an online survey, and participants were recruited by research assistants. Two hierarchical multiple regressions were conducted to examine possible motives for liking and usage of Facebook. The significant motives found for liking Facebook were keeping in touch, occupying time, sharing information, people watching, and entertainment. The significant motives found for Facebook usage included occupying time, sharing information, and venting. The findings of this study increase the understanding of motives that contribute to liking and usage of Facebook.

Introduction

Social networking sites (SNSs) are the latest online communication tool that allows users to construct their profiles, share pictures, and post links (Tosun, 2012). Because of these applications, SNSs help users to present themselves, connect to a social network, and maintain relationships with others (Ellison, Steinfield, & Lampe, 2007). Facebook use has been categorized in several different ways. The articles concerning Facebook user motivation have varied in both their focus and methodology. However, a majority of the articles were about internal motivations, such as the need for social interaction. The most common internal motivation discussed was users' desire to keep in touch with friends (Lampe, Ellison, & Steinfield, 2006; Joinson, 2008; Sheldon, 2008; Tosun, 2008). Expanding on this topic, researchers have explored the influence of social capital, which refers to the benefits received from relationships with other people (Lampe, Ellison, & Steinfield, 2008). 

Many researchers described uses and gratification theory to explain motives (Joinson, 2008; Sheldon, 2008; Kim, Kim, & Nam 2010; Pappacharissi & Rubin, 2000; Tosun, 2012; Zhang, Tang, & Leung, 2011). Pappacharissi and Rubin (2000) defined motives as "general dispositions that influence people's actions taken to fulfill a need or want" (p. 179). The main objective of uses and gratification theory research is to examine an individual's motivations for media use, factors influencing those motivations, and the outcome of the media-related behavior (Joinson, 2008). Studies have also focused on uses and gratifications of the Internet in general (Pappacharissi & Rubin, 2000; Sheldon, 2008). For example, Pappacharissi and Rubin (2000) found that the five primary motives for using the Internet included interpersonal utility, pass time, information seeking, convenience, and entertainment.     

Pappacharissi and Rubin (2000) found that Internet users who avoided in-person interaction or found its use less rewarding, chose the Internet as an alternative method to fulfill interpersonal needs. However, this has not necessarily been the case in regards to Facebook. In fact, SNSs have been found to help maintain or develop existing offline relationships or to enhance existing ones (Lampe et al., 2008). SNSs users use these sites to connect with other people who are members of their offline communities, like friends and family, so there is an overlap between SNS users' online and offline networks (Ellison et al., 2006; Joinson, 2008; Kim et al., 2010).

Broadly, previous research suggested that SNSs fulfill a wide array of needs for users, ranging from emotional support to social support (Ellison et al., 2006; Joinson, 2008). Users also turn to SNS to keep in touch with friends, stay updated on events, and maintain offline connections (Ellison et al., 2006). Participants have reported utilizing Facebook to relieve boredom and pass the time (Lampe et al., 2006; Sheldon, 2008). More recent research shows that users have turned to SNSs for entertainment and enjoyment, to maintain and develop relationships, and social support and information seeking (Kim et al., 2011; Lin & Lu, 2011). Park, Kee, and Valenzuela (2009) gathered information to examine Facebook group users' motivations by asking participants to identify which motives described their reasons for utilizing the site. They found that students join Facebook groups because of the need to obtain information for activities occurring on and off campus, socialize with friends, seek self-status, and find entertainment (Park et al., 2009).

Research has also been conducted on who is using SNS, how they are using these sites, and what affects SNS use. For instance, some studies have examined gender differences regarding use.  Muscanell and Guadagno's (2012) research demonstrated individual differences, where personality and gender were predictors of SNS use. These gender differences reflected similarly among Internet use and unique personality differences were closely associated with specific SNS activities. Haferkamp, Elmer, Papadakis, and Kruck (2012) found that although men are more interpersonally oriented online, women are more task and information-oriented. Thompson and Lougheed (2012) found that females were more likely to report they spent more time on Facebook, spent more time looking at other people's profiles, often lost sleep over Facebook, and felt closer to Facebook friends than those seen daily. They also found that Facebook pictures caused negative self-body image, that use sometimes caused stress (if unable to login), and that females sometimes felt addicted to Facebook. Researchers studying college students speculated that because the average age of participants was 19, the Facebook usage was higher because they may not have felt socially integrated into their college community (Thompson & Lougheed, 2012).   

Researchers have also examined the relationship between satisfaction obtained from SNS use, and they found that those who are highly concerned with relationships are motivated to enhance their social relationships. By utilizing SNSs for this purpose, they enjoy greater satisfaction from use (Kim et al., 2010).  Some studies have found that certain motives and satisfaction were associated with greater usage (Lampe et al., 2006; Zhang et al., 2011). Although research has been conducted, the question still remains regarding how motives directly relate to liking and usage of Facebook. The motives that will be included in this study are to keep in touch, to occupy time, to people watch, to share information, to connect with others, to play, to promote causes or groups, to feel individual, to provide entertainment, to vent, and to feel closer to celebrities.

Method

Participants

The survey sample consisted of 167 men and 496 women (3 participants did not report gender) who had active Facebook accounts and lived in the United States. The average age of the participants was 22 (SD = 3.07, Range = 18 - 30 years of age). The majority (62%) of the participants listed their racial background as being White, whereas 10 percent were Black and 28 percent were Asian, Hispanic, multi-racial, or another race. The majority (69%) of the participants were in college, whereas 31 percent were not in college.

Procedure

Twenty-eight research assistants recruited individuals with Facebook accounts using e-mail flyers and social media posts that included the hyperlink to the survey. The participants were asked to take an online survey via SurveyMonkey. To be considered for participation in the study, individuals had to be 18 - 30 years old, have a Facebook account, be a resident of the United States, and have Internet access to take the online survey.

Participants were asked to complete a survey inquiring about demographic information, motives for using Facebook, their liking of Facebook, and their use of Facebook. Survey participation was voluntary and those that agreed to participate were entered into a drawing for a chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card.

Measures

Motives to use Facebook. Fifty-four items were generated, many of which were items based on the categories Sheldon (2008) and Joinson (2008) proposed. The categories for this scale included to keep in touch, to occupy time, to people watch, to share information, to connect with others, to play, to promote causes or groups, to feel individual, to provide entertainment, to vent, and to feel closer to celebrities. An example item is "I use Facebook to get in touch with people I know."  The scale measured motives to use Facebook.  Higher scores indicate stronger feelings of motivation to use Facebook.  Participants rated how frequently they did the items on a 5-point Likert rating scale (1 = not at all to 5 = very frequently). This study deemed the overall index to be reliable; a Cronbach's .96 alpha reliability coefficient was found.

Results

Two hierarchical multiple regressions analyses were conducted with liking Facebook and usage as the criterion and motives as predictors. Table 1 shows the means, standard deviations, and correlations for the first regression conducted on the variables related to liking Facebook. Table 2 shows the means, standard deviations, and correlations for the second regression, which was conducted on the variables related to the usage of Facebook. As Table 2 shows, the contribution of the motives to predicting the liking of Facebook was significant, R2 = .47, p < .001. The contribution of the motives to the usage of Facebook was also found to be significant, R2 = .36, p < .001. Overall, the motives accounted for 47 percent of the variance in liking Facebook and 36 percent of the variance in usage of Facebook.  Of the variables analyzed, keeping in touch, occupying time, sharing information, people watching, and entertainment, accounted for a significant contribution to the variance in the liking of Facebook (Table 3). The most important predictors of usage of Facebook tended to be related to occupying time, sharing information, and venting contributed to its variance (Table 4).

Discussion

To examine the possible motives for Facebook, multiple regressions were calculated to predict how users' motives affect usage and liking of Facebook. Of the motives examined to predict the liking of Facebook, keeping in touch, occupying time, sharing information, people watching, and entertainment were found to significantly predict liking. This regression model accounted for 47 percent of the variance, meaning that the other variables are still affecting the liking of Facebook. Other factors that affect the liking of Facebook could be personality, age, limited access, culture, ethnicity, etc.

Research has not necessarily focused on motives as predictors as to how much users like Facebook. The present study looked at how motives can predict the liking of Facebook; previous research focused on different aspects. For example, research was conducted on user attitudes towards Facebook; they found that audience perception changes as some of Facebook features change (Lampe et al., 2008). Their participants reported positive attitudes towards Facebook (Lampe et al., 2008).  Mauri, Cipresso, Balgera, Villamira, and Riva (2011) focused on why users enjoy using SNSs, supporting the findings that SNSs popularity may be associated with a specific positive affective state experienced by users while on their account. 

It makes sense that keeping in touch was one of the strongest predictors. Research has found that there is a connectedness between users online and offline lives (Ellison et al., 2006; Joinson, 2008; Lampe et al., 2008; Kim et al., 2010). The use of Facebook to keep in touch or maintain relationships has been studied frequently (i.e., Lampe et al., 2006; Joinson, 2008; Sheldon, 2008; Tosun, 2008). Similar results were also found but classified as network maintenance (Zhang et al., 2011) and for Internet use (Pappacharissi & Rubin, 2000). In terms of occupying time, Sheldon (2008) found that students used Facebook to pass time when bored or after they received an email notification from the site. Similar results were found for Internet use (Pappacharissi & Rubin, 2000) and classified under entertainment by Zhang et al. (2011). The sharing information motive was classified in this study as sharing information in the user's life (i.e., posting pictures or making announcements of big events).  For the motive people watching, research found that user's desire to engage in social surveillance also motivated visiting Facebook (Joinson, 2008; Lampe et al., 2006). Entertainment was also found to be a primary motive for Facebook (Sheldon, 2008) and Internet use (Pappacharissi & Rubin, 2000). Zhang et al. (2011) found that entertainment was the strongest predictor of perceived importance in users' lives and it also predicted the amount of time spent on the site. 

Occupying time, sharing information, and venting all predicted Facebook usage. The second regression model accounted for 36 percent of the variance, showing that there are other factors possibly explaining Facebook usage (e.g., personality, age, limited access, culture, ethnicity, etc.). In earlier research, similar results emerged for occupying users' time and sharing information (Pappacharissi & Rubin, 2000; Sheldon, 2008; Zhang et al., 2011). Venting was not found in the literature. It would make sense that sharing information and venting would show up as predictors for use because some users seek social support. In another research study, users also reported using SNSs to stay up to date on events (Ellison et al., 2006).     

The findings in this study have a number of important implications for understanding how Facebook is used. Knowing what motivates liking and usage of Facebook can help us to understand why it has become so popular and to better understand factors that predict liking and usage. Also, based on research for motives, an obvious implication would be that Facebook could advance and strengthen the most used features.    

The strengths of the study included evidence for the reliability of the measure, a large sample size, and the practical relevance of the research conducted. The measure was found to be reliable using Cronbach's alpha, showing relatively high internal consistency within the measure. The sample size consisted of 666 participants. Because of the large sample size, it is a reasonable assumption that the sample data could be able to be generalized to the rest of the population in the United States. Given the advancements in technology, it is beneficial for researchers to expand the knowledge of how users utilize Facebook. Specifically, understanding how users use Facebook's main features, how they create and perceive profile content, and even befriend other users. There is still only a relatively small amount of literature published about Facebook in general. The relevance of this research contributes to broadening the existing pool of results.  Researchers do not yet know the extent of how and why users' utilize Facebook; using motives to predict behavior patterns on Facebook would be an asset to this existing literature. Also, it is important to understand why people use Facebook because of its popularity. The majority of Americans now have Facebook accounts and check their accounts on a regular basis (Kim et al., 2010). A level of uncertainty about Facebook comes from the sudden popularity of the site. Understanding this may have implications for how other phenomena are understood, such as self-esteem, subjective well-being, social anxiety, Facebook addiction, and formation of identities. If researchers are able to understand why users use Facebook then they may be able to determine how they use it. For instance, if a user's motivations for using Facebook include keeping in touch with friends or meeting new people, research could focus on the way users present themselves. Or, if a user's motive for using Facebook was to participate in people watching, this may also motivate the frequency of site use, which may in turn predict Facebook addiction.   

There are limitations to the study that should be addressed. First, although the study did have a substantial sample size, it was relatively homogenous. The majority of the participants were college students, female, and Caucasian, therefore making it difficult to generalize findings to non-college students, males, and other ethnicities. Second, Facebook was the only SNS that was assessed in this study. Other SNSs could have different usage patterns as a result of the features available. Caution must be taken when applying the findings to other types of SNSs that target different groups of users, such as LinkedIn. Lastly, there is always the possibility of inaccuracy when collecting information from self-reported surveys. Participants may respond with the opinions and beliefs they believe the researchers want.

In regards to Facebook use, there are still gaps in research and suggestions for future research are outlined next. Future research should explore the influence of cultural norms on Facebook use, which would be ideal for researchers who wish to study how motives can predict their behavior patterns. Cross-cultural Facebook research is well suited to explore these cultural differences because of the behavioral data collected. There has been research exploring the trends within countries (Haferkamp et al., 2012; Tosun, 2012), but they were rare. Empirical evidence from more diverse samples will be required to make generalizations across cultures.

It also would have been interesting to look at login frequency, the amount of time spent on Facebook, and how long users have been using Facebook in relation to liking and usage. Lampe et al. (2008) found that newer Facebook users have different use behaviors than older users.  Users of different ages may have different motivations thus possibly creating differences in how those motivations affect what Facebook is used for and how much it is liked. 

This study focused on participants between the ages of 18 to 30; it would be beneficial to widen this age bracket or even have a longitudinal study seeing how motives change over time. The most common motivations included keeping in touch and occupying time. For instance, if teenage users' motivations were examined, researchers could help with time management. Teens could save time by interacting with their friends on Facebook without having to physically see them, therefore allowing more study and extracurricular activities. It would also be interesting to compare motivations of Facebook users with motivations of why non-users do not use Facebook and see how their social lives differ because research has found that Facebook users' lives overlap online and offline.         


References

Ellison, N., Steinfield, C., & Lampe, C. (2007). The benefits of Facebook "friends:" Social capital and college students' use on online networking sites. Journal of Computer Mediated Communication, 12, 1143-1168. doi:10.1111/j.1083-6101.2007.00367.x

Haferkamp, N., Elmer, S. C., Papadakis, A., & Kruck, J. V. (2012). Men are from Mars, women are from Venus? Examining gender differences in self-presentation on social networking sites. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 15, 91-98. doi:10.1089/cyber.2011.0151

Joinson, A. N. (2008). 'Looking at, 'looking up' or 'keeping up with' people? Motives and uses of Facebook. In CHI 2008 Proceedings (pp. 1027-1036). New York: ACM Press. doi:10.1145/1357054.1357213

Kim, J. H., Kim, M., & Nam, Y. (2010). An analysis of self-construals, motivations, Facebook use, and user satisfaction. International Journal of Human-Computer Interaction, 26(11-12), 1077-1099. doi:10.1080/10447318.2010.516726

Lampe, C., Ellison, N., & Steinfield, C. (2006). A Face(book) in the crowd: Social searching vs.social browsing. Paper presented at the ACM Special Interest Group on Computer Supported Cooperative Work, Banff, AB, Canada. doi:10.1145/1180875.1180901

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

Lin, K., & Lu, H. (2011). Why people use social networking sites: An empirical study integrating network externalities and motivation theory. Computers in Human          Behavior, 27(3), 1152-1161. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2010.12.009

Mauri, M., Cipresso, P., Balgera, A., Villamira, M., & Riva, G. (2011). Why is Facebook so successful? Psychophysiological measures describe a core flow state while using Facebook. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 14(12), 723-731. doi:10.1089/cyber.2010.0377

Muscanell, N. L., & Guadagno, R. E. (2012). Make new friends or keep the old: Gender and personality differences in social networking use. Computers in Human Behavior, 28, 107-112. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2011.08.016

Papacharissi, Z., & Rubin, A. M. (2000). Predictors of Internet use. Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 44(2), 175-196. doi:10.1207/s15506878jobem4402_2

Park, N., Kee, K. F., & Valenzuela, S. (2009). Being immersed in social networking environment: Facebook Groups, uses and gratifications, and social outcomes. CyberPsychology & Behavior, 12(6), 729-733. doi:10.1089/cpb.2009.0003

Sheldon, P. (2008). The relationship between unwillingness-to-communicate and students' Facebook use. Journal of Media Psychology, 20, 67-75. doi:10.1027/1864-1105.20.2.67

Thompson, S. H., & Lougheed, E. (2012). Frazzled by Facebook? An exploratory study of gender differences in social network communication among undergraduate men and women. College Student Journal, 46, 88-98. Retrieved from http://0-search.proquest.com.sophia.agnesscott.edu/docview/1008896212?accountid=8381

Tosun, L. P. (2012). Motives for Facebook use and expressing "true self" on the Internet. Computers in Human Behavior, 28(4), 1510-1517.

Zhang, Y., Tang, L., & Leung, L. (2011). Gratifications, collective self-esteem, online emotional openness, and traitlike communication apprehension as predictors of Facebook uses. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking,14(12), 733-739. doi:10.1089/cyber.2010.0042


Table 1

Correlations, Means, and Standard Deviations for Key Variables Related to Liking Facebook

Variable

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

1. Like Facebook

---

.44***

.48***

.47***

.39***

.31***

.16***

.21***

.27***

.65***

.27***

.12***

2. Keeping in touch

 

---

.45***

.54***

.46***

.42***

.10**

.35***

.40***

.51***

.34***

.11**

3. Occupying time

 

 

---

.49***

.60***

.43***

.15***

.24***

.33***

.61***

.30***

.11**

4. Share information

 

 

 

---

.49***

.47***

.19***

.44***

.53***

.57***

.49***

.19***

5. People watching

 

 

 

 

---

.51***

.21***

.40***

.45***

.57***

.37***

.33***

6. Connecting

 

 

 

 

 

---

.28***

.48***

.56***

.49***

.54***

.29***

7. Play

 

 

 

 

 

 

---

.26***

.26***

.19***

.32***

.32***

8. Causes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

---

.69***

.34***

.40***

.28***

9. Individuality

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

---

.47***

.45***

.29***

10. Entertainment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

---

.44***

.20***

11. Venting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

---

.29***

12. Celebrities

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

---

Mean

3.66

31.1

10.8

12.3

30.7

9.03

4.47

16.6

7.70

12.8

2.04

2.58

Standard Deviation

.91

6.13

3.30

3.78

8.56

3.91

2.20

6.57

3.28

4.14

1.11

1.34

Note. Higher scores indicate greater magnitude.  All analyses were two-tailed.  * p < .05, ** p <.01, *** p < .001

Table 2

Correlations, Means, and Standard Deviations for Key Variables Related to Facebook Usage

Variable

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

1. Facebook Use

---

-.33***

-.58***

-.37***

-.40***

-.28***

-.12**

-.23***

-.26***

-.41***

-.17***

-.09**

2. Keeping in touch

 

---

.45***

.53***

.45***

.43***

.11***

.35***

.40***

.51***

.33***

.11**

3. Occupying time

 

 

---

.49***

.60***

.42***

.15***

.24***

.33***

.61***

.31***

.11**

4. Share information

 

 

 

---

.48***

.47***

.19***

.43***

.53***

.55***

.49***

.18***

5. People watching

 

 

 

 

---

.51***

.22***

.38***

.45***

.57***

.37***

.33***

6. Connecting

 

 

 

 

 

---

.28***

.49***

.56***

.49***

.55***

.30***

7. Play

 

 

 

 

 

 

---

.26***

.26***

.19***

.33***

.32***

8. Causes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

---

.69***

.33***

.39***

.28***

9. Individuality

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

---

.46***

.45***

.29***

10. Entertainment

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

---

.44***

.20***

11. Venting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

---

.30***

12. Celebrities

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

---

Mean

1.57

31.1

10.8

12.3

30.7

9.02

4.47

16.6

7.70

12.8

2.04

2.58

Standard Deviation

1.13

6.16

3.32

3.79

8.50

3.87

2.18

6.55

3.28

4.11

1.10

1.36

Note. Note. Higher scores indicate greater magnitude.  All analyses were two-tailed.  * p < .05, ** p <.01, *** p < .001

Table 3

Hierarchical Multiple Regression Used to Predict Liking Facebook

Variable

β

ΔF

Overall R2

Motives

 

 

 

  Keeping in touch

    .12***

 

 

  Occupying time

.09*

 

 

  Share information

                  .17***

 

 

  People watching

  .36* 

 

 

  Entertainment

      .59***

44.93***

.47

Note. N = 666. *p < .05, **p < .01, ***p < .001


Table 4

Hierarchical Multiple Regression Used to Predict Facebook Usage

Variable

β

ΔF

Overall R2

Motives

 

 

 

  Occupying time

   -.51***

 

 

  Share information

-.10*

 

 

  Venting

  .11*

28.56***

.36

Note. N = 666. *p < .05, **p < .01, ***p < .001

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