Facebook: 7 Highly Effective Habits

Quick 7-point primer on the psychology of Facebook.

Quick 7-point primer on the psychology of Facebook.

Love it or loathe it, Facebook is everywhere, and will continue to be everywhere as the film describing its genesis—The Social Network—is released worldwide over coming months.

To help you cope, here are 7 research-based tips for total Facebook domination. If you don’t use it, these should at least help you pepper Facebook-related conversations with compelling observations from the psychological research.

1. Get between 100 and 300 friends

It doesn’t look good to have too many Facebook friends, or too few.

It has been suggested that humans can maintain relationships with 150 people and Tong et al. (2008) found Facebooker’s social attractiveness peaked at around this number. Go much above 300 or below 100 and social attractiveness starts to drop.

2. Court attractive friends

Make sure your friends, or the people who post on your ‘wall’, are good-looking. Walther et al. (2008) found that attractive friends boosted the perceived attractiveness of participant’s profiles.

Keep the uggos away, unlike the offline world, it won’t make you look better in comparison.

3. Understand the 7 motivations

If you need to lure more people in as Facebook friends, it’s handy to understand its attraction.

Joinson (2008) found 7 basic motivations for using Facebook: connecting with old or distant friends, social surveillance (see what old friends are up to, but without talking to them), looking up people met offline, virtual people watching, status updating and content.

4. Don’t let your partner use Facebook

Muise et al. (2009) found that participants who spent more time on Facebook were more jealous of their partners. This is probably because they are finding out things about their partner—who they know and where they’ve been—which, in the days before social networking, could have been kept quiet.

So, don’t let your partner see your Facebook profile. Unless you want them to be jealous. In which case, carry on.

5. Guard your privacy

Privacy is a big, controversial topic on Facebook because many people’s social networking profiles do say too much.

Nosko et al. (2010) found that young, single people were particularly likely to disclose sensitive information about themselves. It’s the online disinhibition effect writ large. But, according to Boyd (2010), more young people are using the privacy settings than a year ago, so the message is getting through.

You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again: watch what you say about yourself online, you never know who’s taking notes.

6. Display your real self

Remarkably, you can often trust Facebook profiles; Back et al., (2010) found that Facebook profiles generally reflected their owner’s actual rather than idealised selves.

Facebook users may not personally know all their Facebook friends but they probably do like the movies, books and bands they claim to like.

7. Use Facebook to get a job

Because we move huge distances nowadays, away from home towns and old friends, it’s easy to lose contact with people who might be able to give us a leg up in life. Facebook to the rescue…

Ellison et al. (2008) found that Facebook users had higher levels of ‘social capital’. In other words: people are using their Facebook contacts to get jobs or other opportunities.

See, Facebookers aren’t just surfing for photos of people they know and people they’d like to know, they’re building social capital.

At least, that’s the excuse I’ll be using from now on.

Image credit: Rishi Bandopadhay

Author: Dr Jeremy Dean

Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology. He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004.

Get free email updates

Join the free PsyBlog mailing list. No spam, ever.