Psychology of Popular Media Culture
2012, Vol. 1, No. 1, 23–37
© 2012 American Psychological Association
2160-4134/12/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/a0026452
Facebook Psychology: Popular Questions Answered by Research
University of London
University College London
Independent Social Media Consultant
University of London, and NYU-in London, UK
Since its launch in February 2004, Facebook has become one of the most popular websites in the world, as well as a widely discussed media phenomenon. Unsurprisingly, the Facebook revolution has inspired a wealth of psychological study, which is growing exponentially. In this article, we review the recent empirical research into some of the key psychological themes concerning Facebook use. The review is organized according to common questions about Facebook culture and use being posed by academics and social commentators alike. These questions are grouped under three major themes, namely: (a) antecedents of Facebook use; (b) how individuals and corporations use Facebook; and (c) psychological outcomes or effects of Facebook use. To this end, we review over 100 recent publications (mostly empirical, peer-reviewed journal articles). We conclude by providing some suggestions for future psychological research in this rapidly expanding area of popular media culture. Keywords: Facebook, social networking, social media, cyber-psychology, computer-mediated communication
tive members internationally in late 2011. It is
“one of the most-trafﬁcked sites in the world”
(Facebook, 2011a) at times, more trafﬁcked
even than Google.
Facebook’s popularity has rendered it the focus of considerable debate within the academic world. This has related particularly to the implications of its use on such areas as relationship-formation and satisfaction (e.g., Sheldon, Abad, & Hinsch, 2011); identity construction
(e.g., Zhao, Grasmuck, & Martin, 2008; Back et
al., 2010); psychological and emotional wellbeing (e.g., Valkenburg, Peter, & Schouton, 2006; Sigman, 2009; Kalpidou, Costin, & Morris, 2011); personal professional boundaries (e.g., Devi, 2011; MacDonald, Sohn, & Ellis,
2010); learning (e.g., English & DuncanHowell, 2008; Kabilan, Ahman, & Abidin, 2010); and privacy (Gross & Acquisti, 2005;
Hartzog, 2009). While some of these issues
have polarized opinion, the complex nature of
Facebook interactions has been recognized
(e.g., Kujath, 2010; Sheldon et al., 2011) and
needs to be reﬂected in study of this medium.
Indeed, global-level discourse on the role
played by such SNSs as Facebook in catalyzing
revolutionary social change only supports this
The recent explosion in computer-mediated
communication has led to a phenomenal upsurge in the availability and use of social networking sites (SNSs; for deﬁnition and history see, Boyd & Ellison, 2007). SNSs can be general or speciﬁc in nature (e.g., focusing on particular populations or activities), but they all provide a virtual platform where users can
“present” themselves, articulate their social networks, and establish or maintain connections with others (Ellison, Steinﬁeld, & Lampe,
2007). One of the most popular SNSs is Facebook. Launched on February 4, 2004 (originally at http://www.thefacebook.com) and reliant on
a continually developing, custom-built infrastructure, the site reached over 750 million ac-
Beth Anderson, Department of Psychology, Goldsmiths,
University of London, London, UK; Patrick Fagan, University College London, London, UK; and Tom Woodnutt, Independent Social Media Consultant; Tomas ChamorroPremuzic, Department of Psychology, Goldsmiths, University of London, and NYU-in London, UK. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Goldsmiths, University of London, New Cross, SE14 6NW, London,
UK. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
ANDERSON, FAGAN, WOODNUTT, AND...
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