Friday, December 9, 2011

Facebook and the News

People don't use Facebook for news.

Yes, shocking, but a recent study describes an online survey of 1,050 respondents, a mix of college students, faculty, and staff, from a "large Midwestern university" (The Ohio State University?) to find this heady mix of folks don't really use FB for news.

There's some interesting stuff here, once you get beyond the odd sample, especially the use of variables called Facebook Intensity (frequency of use, along with how much it's a part of your life) and Presence (number of friends and how often you post).  We can quibble for hours with what these mean conceptually and whether methodologically the measures make sense together, but by using these variables in analysis some interesting results are produced. 

Table A4, near the bottom, provides a multivariate analysis with the dependent variable being FB news use.  The authors run the model in three steps.  First, they entered sex and age.  Both significantly predict FB news use (younger and female respondents were more likely to use it for news).  Second, they entered FB Intensity and PresenceWhen that happens, the statistical contribution of age is no longer significant.  The variables Intensity and Presence steal all the variance that was explained by age.  Third, they enter some Life Satisfaction and Introversion into the model.  The former is statistically significant, the latter not, and neither affect the other variables.

What can we make of this?  It's tempting to say that it isn't so much age as it is your relationship with Facebook that explains your likelihood to use the social networking site to keep up with news.  But if you look at the correlations, younger respondents report significantly higher Intensity and Presence scores.   Those variables just do a better job of explaining news use than mere age, which is important to know, because it suggests our relationship with a social networking site is better predictor of how we use it than simply age.

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