New research shows heavy Facebook and Twitter users can suffer withdrawal symptoms when forced to go cold turkey. It also highlights 12 distinct types of social media users: which one are you?
1. The Ultras: For many habitual social media users, the networks are their primary communications link to family and friends, so the enforced changes did, in some cases, make them feel isolated. Some felt the feelings of isolation from the first few days, while for others those feelings were triggered later in the experiment by missing out on information, or a conversation, that had taken place on their networks.
2. The Deniers: ‘Deniers’ are those who maintain social media doesn’t control their lives. They reckon they can easily live without it. The reality, however, is very different. Whenever they can’t access their favourite network for an extended period, they become anxious and feel cut off from the rest of the world.
3. The Dippers: Although more than half the UK population is signed up to Facebook or Twitter, not all are regular users. ‘Dippers’ access their pages infrequently, often going days – or even weeks – without tweeting or posting an update.
4. The Virgins: Every day, new people are signing up to social networks. These ‘Virgins’ are taking their first tentative steps in social media. They can often struggle initially to get to grips with the workings of Facebook and Twitter, and until they build up their own networks of friends and followers they may question why they’ve joined. The first couple of months will determine whether they go on to become Ultras!
5. The Lurkers: Hiding in the shadows of cyberspace, they watch what others are saying on social networks but rarely (if ever) participate themselves. They will complain publicly about the ‘mundane drivel’ that is posted, and privately they worry they don’t have anything interesting to say, but they keep an eye on others’ conversations.
6. The Peacocks: A ‘Peacock’ can be easily recognised on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram because they see social networks as an opportunity to show everyone just how popular they are. They judge their social standing on how many followers or fans they have, and the aim of each post or tweet is to secure as many ‘likes’ or re-tweets as possible.
7. The Ranters: Often meek and mild in face-to-face conversations, ‘Ranters’ are highly opinionated online. Social media platforms allow them to articulate their strong opinions without having to worry about how others will react. They may be former bloggers, but Twitter gives them the opportunity to rant to a much larger audience.
8. The Ghosts: Some people on social networks like to participate in conversations but are worried about giving out personal information to strangers. On Twitter, these ‘Ghosts’ create usernames that allow them to remain largely anonymous, while on Facebook they have noticeably sparse profiles and timelines.
9. The Changelings: For some people, being anonymous online isn’t enough. They also adopt very different personalities, confident in the knowledge (or so they think) that no-one knows their real identity.
10. The Quizzers: ‘Quizzers’ like to ask questions on Facebook and Twitter – not because they actually want to know the answers, but because asking questions allows them to start conversations. They may fear being “left out” by not having anything interesting to say, so asking questions gives them the opportunity to contribute and be involved.
11. The Informers: Information is currency in social media. Being the first to spot something interesting and pass it on earns you kudos and – just as importantly – more followers and fans. ‘Informers’ scan social media and news sites, looking for any new stories, offers, videos etc they can share with their audience.
12. The Approval-seekers: This group worry about how many likes/comments/re-tweets they get when they post a message or update, because they link that endorsement to their popularity. After posting a message they will constantly check their feeds and timelines, and will fret until people start to respond.