Student Favorite: Facebook and
Motives for its Use
A survey with 172 students was conducted at Louisiana State University to see
what students’ motives are for using the Facebook, how individual differences relate
to motives for Facebook use, and to what extent motives and individual differences
can predict attitudinal and behavioral outcomes of Facebook use. In light of the uses
and gratification theory, the study found that people go to Facebook to fulfill needs
traditionally fulfilled by other media but for their interpersonal communication
needs first (relationship maintenance). Women were more likely to go to Facebook to
maintain existing relationships, pass time and be entertained. On the other hand,
men were more likely to go to Facebook to develop new relationships or meet new
The idea of a community accessible only via my computer screen
sounded cold to me at first, but I learned quickly that people can
feel passionately about e-mail and computer conferences. I’ ve be-
come one of them. I care about these people I met through my
computer… (Rheingold, 1993, p. 1)
he range of communication media available to young people is rich, wide,
and likely to continue to increase in the future. As the number and vari-
ety of media have increased across U.S. households (Louie, 2003), many
questions about individuals’ media choice and use remain unanswered (Flanagin
and Metzger, 2001).
In 2006 about 88 percent of Americans age 12 through 29 went online.
Digital Natives is the name of the group that has grown up with Internet technol-
ogy. The Pew Internet Project (2006) found that the Internet’s major benefit is in
helping people tap into social networks. One of these networks is Facebook, an
Internet site created by Mark Zuckerberg, a Harvard undergraduate student, in
February 2004. Facebook’s primary purpose, according its homepage, is to “share
information with people you know, see what’s going on with your friends, and
look up people around you.” (Facebook.com, 2007)
As college students spend more time online than any generation before, it
is important to know what gratifications they seek and obtain from the new me-
dia. As LaRose and Eastin (2004) suggested, the definition of Internet usage is
too broad. So research in this area should distinguish Internet application (e.g.,
e-mail vs. online chat), functions or settings. Similarly, Papacharissi and Rubin
Pavica Sheldon, a doctoral student at Louisiana State University’s Manship School of
Mass Communication, won third place with this manuscript at the Southwest Sympo-
sium of the Southwest Education Council for Journalism and Mass Communication
in October 2007.
Student Favorite: Facebook and Motives for its Use 39
(2001) suggested that, with the widespread use of CMC, we need a better under-
standing of personal and social attributes that predict why people use computer-
mediated communication (CMC) and the outcomes of CMC-related behavior.
CMC “blurs” traditional boundaries between interpersonal and mass commu-
nication, thus offering new opportunities for the way individuals relate to one
another (Parks and Floyd, 1996). Although some educational institutions have
raised their voices against Facebook, claiming that students may be addicted to
the site and spend too much time there, there is little research on who uses the
site, what brings people to Facebook, and what the outcome of their social net-
working is. What are user motives (gratifications sought) for using Facebook, how
do individual differences (age, gender, education) relate to motives for Facebook
use, and to what extent can motives and individual differences predict attitudinal
and behavioral outcomes of Facebook use? These are the questions this study is
designed to answer.
Uses and Gratifications Theory. Newhagen and Rafaeli (1996) suggested that
uses and gratification (U&G) theory might well be suited to study the Internet.
The theory explains how different people use the same media messages for dif-
ferent purposes to satisfy their psychological and social needs and achieve their
goals (Katz, 1959). According to uses and gratifications theory, audiences differ in
the gratifications they seek from the mass media. What needs and gratifications
people are looking for can be grouped into the following categories: diversion
(escape from problems; emotional release), personal relationship (social utility of
information in conversation; substitute of the media for companionship), per-
sonal identity (value reinforcement, self-understanding), and surveillance (Mc-
Quail, Blumler, and Brown, 1972). Later, researchers added a few more categories.
Generally, U&G theory focuses on motives for media use, factors that influence
motives, and outcomes from media-related behavior. Many studies conducted af-
ter 1972 showed that different motives are linked to different media preferences,
leading to different patterns of media exposure and use to different outcomes
(Haridakis and Rubin, 2003).
Ruggiero (2000) writes that new media like the Internet possess at least three
attributes not commonly associated with traditional media: interactivity, demas-
sification, and asynchroneity. Dicken-Garcia (1998) said that the Internet places
stronger emphasis on interpersonal conversations than has been true of earlier
media. Users say electronically what they might never say in person, sometimes
taking on new personalities, ages, and genders. It more resembles word of mouth
than the sort of communication one usually sees in newspapers and television
(Dicken-Garcia, 1998). That is, many researchers see the Internet as a continuum
between mass and interpersonal communication (Ruggiero, 2000).
Uses and gratification theory has been criticized for focusing too narrowly
on the individual (Elliot, 1974) and not explaining why people use a certain me-
dium, or how a certain gratification is provided by using the medium. Many cen-
tral concepts such as audience needs, gratifications, and motives remain unclear
(Swanson, 1977). Scholars respond to those criticisms and are now measuring the
distinction between gratifications sought and gratifications obtained. Some uses
and gratifications studies have explored the relationship between gratifications
40 Southwestern Mass Communication Journal Spring 2008
sought and gratifications obtained (GS and GO) and media choice, extending
the research from description of gratifications to tests of the explanatory power
of these gratifications (Dobos, 1992). These studies found that GO are stronger
predictors of media exposure than GS.
Cyber communities. Coley (2006) differentiates among three types of cyber
communities. First, there are social networks such as Facebook and MySpace
where young people create their profiles with private information and then reveal-
ing that information to their “cyber friends.” The main purpose of social networks
is to make new friendships or to maintain those that already existed. The second
type of cyber community is a chat system, which includes instant messaging (IM).
The third type is blogs, personal websites with frequently updated observations,
news, commentaries, and recommended links (Coley, 2006).
Online social networks and Facebook. Online social networks encompass on-
line dating sites, as well as popular social networking websites such as MySpace,
Xanga, Live Journal, and Facebook. The difference between chat rooms and social
networking sites is that the majority of communication in online social networks
takes place asynchronously and within the network of “friends” that the user has
established. Facebook.com is a social networking website which, according to
nonacademic sources, allows people who use it several advantages. It allows us-
ers to stay in touch with old friends and those at other schools, to make new
“friends,” to join “groups” that fit their interests, advertise their parties, check how
many personal messages/wall posts they received from their friends, and see other
people’s pictures and new features that Facebook continually adds. Many search
for new people who have recently joined Facebook and whom they might know
or want to meet. Another reason is that students are already online, and checking
Facebook is a routine online behavior. Coley (2006) asserts that most students use
Facebook for fun, to organize parties, and to find dates. They like the opportunity
to find others with similar interests, students with whom they are in class, and
in using Facebook, they feel a sense of community and connectedness. In 2006,
Coley (2006) wrote that about 80 percent of colleges have Facebook, and 85 per-
cent of students at those colleges have accounts. Sixty percent of them log on daily,
around six times a day. According to Coley, Facebook is the ninth most-visited
website, behind a similar online network called MySpace.com.
Facebook features include a profile, status, friends, photos, shares, events,
notes, groups, messages, an account setting, and a privacy setting. Facebook also
offers a possibility to find a person from your yahoo or hotmail address list that
has a Facebook account. A minimal Facebook profile only tells a user’s name, date
of joining, school, status, and e-mail address.
Withall (2005) best summarized the importance Facebook has for students:
“Facebook.com has become our social Bible for definitive information on our
classmates, crushes and high school peers we have not spoken to in who-knows-
Motives for Facebook use. To look at the motive for Facebook use, one has
to understand the history of research on traditional and new media. During the
last 15 years, researchers have developed different motivational scales for Internet
use. Most of the items they use came from the analyses of qualitative data, such
Student Favorite: Facebook and Motives for its Use 41
as answers to open-ended questions, essays and diaries (Vettehen and Van Snip-
penburg, 2002). According to Morris and Ogan (1996), the Internet can fulfill
interpersonal and mediated needs. Except for interpersonal needs, Flaherty, Pearce,
and Rubin (1998) found that people use computers to satisfy needs tradition-
ally fulfilled by media (i.e., social interaction, to pass time, habit, information,
and entertainment), and other needs (i.e., meeting people), which are fulfilled by
new media. Flanagin and Metzger (2001) included in mass media needs mediated
interpersonal needs such as feeling less lonely, relationship maintenance, problem
solving and persuasion. For Parker and Plank (2000), a relaxation and escape factor
predicted Internet usage. Papacharissi and Rubin (2000) found a social interaction
factor as the only one that predicted going online. Other researchers found that
the expectation of finding enjoyable activities online predicted the amount of con-
sumption (LaRose, Mastro, and Eastin, 2001). Charney and Greenberg (2001)
described eight gratification factors for the Internet (to keep informed, diversion
and entertainment, peer identity, good feelings, communication, sights and sounds, ca-
reer, and coolness). However, the assumptions of this study assert that certain Inter-
net features, such as Facebook, may not be designed to fulfill all of those needs.
According to the uses and gratifications model, a person’s social and psycho-
logical factors influence motives for communicating - their gratifications sought
and gratifications obtained. Research on media using patterns suggests that de-
mographic variables influence motives and behaviors. Thus, females were found
to be more involved in online interpersonal relationships than men (Parks and
Behavioral and attitudinal outcomes of Facebook use. Parks and Floyd (1996)
found more developed personal relationships for those who posted more often
and who had been posting online for a longer time. Uses and gratification re-
searchers have suggested conceptualizing and measuring gratifications in terms of
both gratifications sought and gratifications obtained from media use (Palmgreen
and Rayburn, 1985). Gratifications sought are defined as the audience’s reasons
are for using Facebook. Gratifications obtained are defined as being those benefits
audiences believe they receive from the uses of Facebook or from their frequency
of using Facebook. In this study, we measure “Facebook use” as the frequency of
Facebook use and the duration of Facebook use (Rubin, 1983). We also measure
the frequency of updating one’s Facebook profile. The measure of “relationship de-
velopment” is operationalized as the number of friends people have on Facebook,
and the percentage of friends they have never met in person. This study measured
users’ satisfaction with Facebook gratifications. It also examined how much users
would miss the site if it suddenly disappeared.
The first research question addresses student motives (gratifications) for us-
ing Facebook. Based on the differences in demographics, the second research ques-
tion examines how students’ individual differences (age, gender, and education)
relate to their motives (gratifications sought) for Facebook use. The third research
question considers to what extent gratifications of Facebook use and demograph-
ics predict attitudinal and behavioral outcomes on Facebook use. Attitudes and
42 Southwestern Mass Communication Journal Spring 2008
Respondents’ Education Level
Education Frequency (n) Percent
Freshman 5 2.8
Sophomore 92 51.7
Junior 56 31.5
Senior 17 9.6
Graduate 3 4.4
Total 173 100
behaviors are measured as the frequency of Facebook use, duration of use, the
number of Facebook friends, the number of people never met in person, satisfac-
tion with Facebook, missing the Facebook.
Sample and procedure. To address these questions, a survey of 172 students
was conducted at a large southern research university. The survey sample consisted
of students enrolled in two large communication classes. Ninety-three percent
(n=172) of students had a Facebook account and seven percent (n=12) did not
have the account. This number is larger than Coley (2006) found. Of those who
had an account, 43 percent (n = 74) were male and 57 percent (n = 98) were
female. The average age of respondents was 20 (M = 19.92, SD = 1.23). Most
respondents were sophomores (52 percent) and business majors (see Table 1 and
Measurement. The survey asked participants to complete the questionnaire
regarding their Facebook usage. Participation was voluntary, but students received
credit if they completed the survey. Overall, they spent approximately five to seven
minutes on the survey. Students who never had a Facebook account were excluded
for the analysis.
Demographics. Respondents indicated whether they were male or female and
were coded dichotomously. Respondents were also asked their age. They were
asked their educational level (freshman, sophomore, junior, senior, and other) and
their field of study.
Participants’ Field of Study
Communication Studies 5.8
Mass Communication 3.4
General Studies 2.8
Interior Design 2.8
Human Ecology 2.8
Student Favorite: Facebook and Motives for its Use 43
Motives. A pool of gratification items was assembled from prior Internet
gratifications studies (Flaherty, Pearce, and Rubin, 1998; Papacharissi and Rubin,
2000; Flanagin and Metzger, 2001). However, items were edited for duplication
and redefined so that they fit Facebook users’ needs. In the questionnaire, respon-
dents were asked how much they use Facebook for the certain reasons. A 5-point
Likert Scale was used in rating 38 gratifications items, namely “5” (exactly) and
“1” (not at all). Factor analyses extracted factors related to gratifications of the
Internet. The factor analysis used a principal component solution and varimax
rotation to find variable groupings, and specified the retention of factors with
eigenvalues greater than 1.0. This resulted in final six factors accounted for 60
percent of the variance.
Facebook use and attitudes. To measure the frequency of Facebook use, re-
spondents were asked how many hours they spend on Facebook on an average
day and how often they log into their account. As a measure of duration of use,
respondents indicated when they opened their Facebook account. We then calcu-
lated the number of years and months they had used Facebook. Respondents were
also asked to determine how many Facebook friends they have. Facebook satisfac-
tion was measured with a single-item: “Overall, how satisfied are you with the job
the Facebook does in providing you with the things you are seeking?” Response
options ranged from extremely satisfied (5) to not at all satisfied (1). Similarly, re-
spondents were asked “If Facebook suddenly disappeared how much would you
miss it?” Response options ranged from miss a lot (5) to not miss at all (1).
The goal of the study was to find out to what extent motives and individual
differences can predict attitudinal and behavioral outcomes of Facebook.
The data were analyzed using descriptive statistics, factor analysis, multiple
regression and multivariate analysis of variance (MANOVA). For all analyses, the
alpha level was set at .05.
According to the analysis, the average time of a Facebook account was 18
months. Students in this sample reported that, on an average, they spent 47 min-
utes a day on Facebook. Fifty-four percent of the respondents logged into the ac-
count several times per day. Twenty- seven percent logged in once per day. Overall,
81 percent of students logged into Facebook on a daily basis. This is 21 percent
more than Coley (2006) found.
The majority of students (50 percent) changed their profile every few months.
Nineteen percent changed their profile every day, and 19 percent 1 to 3 times per
week. The majority of students had between 200 and 350 Facebook friends.
Facebook motives. The first research question asked what motivates student
to use Facebook. The final factor analysis yielded six interpretable factors. Table 3
presents the results of factor analysis.
Factor 1 was labeled relationship maintenance (eigenvalue = 10.73). It con-
tained six items (e.g. “To send a message to a friend,” “To post a message on my
friend’s wall”) and accounted for 31 percent of the total variance after rotation.
This factor suggests that Facebook was used to maintain relationships with exist-
ing acquaintances. It was labeled relationship maintenance because it focused on
44 Southwestern Mass Communication Journal Spring 2008
Motives for Facebook Use: Primary Factor Loadings
Loading Eigenvalue Variance α
Factor 1: Relationship Maintenance
To send a message to a friend .74
To post a message on my friend’s wall .70
To communicate with my friends .83 10.73 31 .90
To stay in touch with friends .78
Get in touch with people I know .72
Get through to someone who is hard to reach .58
Factor 2: Passing Time
To pass time when bored .67
It is one of the routine things I do when online .61 3.94 11.2 .83
To occupy my time .74
To check my wall after I receive an e-mail from Facebook .74
Factor 3: Virtual community
Develop a romantic relationship .77
Find more interesting people than in real life .70 1.84 5.2 .80
Find companionship .86
Meet new friends .65
To feel less lonely .52
Factor 4: Entertainment
To see other people’s pictures .59
It is entertaining .56
To read other people’s proﬁle .67 1.62 4.6 .84
To enjoy it .61
To see which of the people I know that joined the Facebook .62
Factor 5: Coolness
It makes me cool among my peers .76
Have fun .66 1.48 4.2 .76
It is cool .60
Factor 6: Companionship
To feel less lonely .51
No one to talk or be with .75 1.41 4 .76
So I won’t be alone .83
Total variance explained = 60 percent
maintaining relationships with existing acquaintances (Song, LaRose, Eastin, and
Factor 2, passing time (eigenvalue = 3.94) contained four items (e.g. “To oc-
cupy my time,” “To pass time when bored”) and accounted for 11.2 percent of the
Student Favorite: Facebook and Motives for its Use 45
Internet Motives Scale
“I use the Facebook for the following reasons” M SD
Factor 1: Relationship Maintenance
To send a message to a friend 3.62 1.19
To post a message on my friend’s wall 3.61 1.31
To communicate with my friends 3.84 1.22
To stay in touch with friends 3.92 1.22
Get in touch with people I know 3.49 1.19
Get through to someone who is hard to reach 3.37 1.31
Factor 2: Passing Time
To pass time when bored 4.10 1.07
It is one of the routine things I do when online 4.04 1.24
To occupy my time 3.52 1.33
To check my wall after I receive an e-mail from Facebook 3.85 1.29
Factor 3: Virtual community
Develop a romantic relationship 1.15 .51
Find more interesting people than in real life 1.22 .58
Find companionship 1.18 .49
Meet new friends 1.60 .87
To feel less lonely
Factor 4: Entertainment
To see other people’s pictures 3.67 1.18
It is entertaining 3.58 1.21
To read other people’s proﬁle 3.05 1.24
To enjoy it 3.61 1.19
To see which of the people I know that joined the Facebook 2.25 1.15
Factor 5: Coolness
It makes me cool among my peers 1.52 1.12
Have fun 2.62 1.23
It is cool 2.22 1.22
Factor 6: Companionship
To feel less lonely 1.28 .57
No one to talk or be with 1.50 .92
So I won’t be alone 1.26 .64
total variance. The motive is particularly salient to the Internet (Flaherty, Pearce,
and Rubin, 1998).
Factor 3, virtual community (eigenvalue = 1.83) consisted of five items (e.g.
“To feel less lonely,” “To meet new friends”) and explained 5.2 percent of the total
variance. This factor, as opposed to maintaining relationships with existing ac-
quaintances, emphasized communication with people met through the Internet.
It was named “virtual community” following Song et al. (2004) term.
Factor 4, entertainment (eigenvalue = 1.62) consisted of five items (e.g. “To
read other people’s profiles,” “It is entertaining”) and explained 4.6 percent of the
total variance. However, the factor had a high mean score, suggesting entertain-
ment as a strong gratification sought in Facebook use.
46 Southwestern Mass Communication Journal Spring 2008
Multiple Regressions: Facebook Motives and Demographics
Gender Age Education Adjusted R²
Relationship maintenance .63** -.16* -.08 .16
Passing time .40* -.18* .38* .08
Virtual community -.40* -.08 -.06 .03
Entertainment .42** -.04 .01 .04
Coolness -.02 -.08 .01 .00
Companionship -.14 -.05 -.16 .00
p < .05; ** p < .01; *** p < .001
Factor 5, coolness (eigenvalue = 1.48) consisted of three items (e.g. “It is cool,”
and “Have fun”) and explained 4.2 percent of the total variance. It was named
“Internet motive” by Charney and Greenberg (2001).
Factor 6, companionship (eigenvalue = 1.41) consisted of three items (e.g. “To
feel less lonely,” “No one to talk or be with”), and explained 4 percent of the total
variance. It is connected with loneliness and regarded as one of mediated interper-
sonal technology needs (Flanagin and Metzger, 2001).
Passing time (M = 3.88, SD = 1.23) and relationship maintenance (M = 3.64,
SD = 1.24) factors had the highest mean scores. Entertainment (M = 3.23, SD =
1.19) was also a salient factor for using the Facebook. Less important reasons were
coolness (M = 2.12, SD = 1.19), companionship (M = 1.35, SD = .78), and virtual
community (M = 1.29, SD = 0.6) (Table 4). The internal consistency of each factor
was assessed. Cronbach’s alpha ranged from .75 to .90 (Table 3).
Motives and antecedents. The second research question examined how stu-
dents’ individual differences relate to their gratifications sought in Facebook use.
Six stepwise multiple regressions were run with different motives identified by the
factor analysis and the demographic characteristics of age, gender, and educational
level (Table 5.)
Gender (β = .63**) and age (β = -.16*) were the significant predictors of
respondents’ motivations to go on Facebook to maintain their existing relationships.
Females and younger respondents went to Facebook for those reasons more than
males and older respondents. The variables explained 16.3 percent of variance
(F [3, 160] = 11.60, p < .01). Gender (β = .40*), age (β = -.18*), and education
(β = .38*) predicted passing time motives, with more females than males, and
more young people going to Facebook to pass time when bored. The variables
explained 8 percent of variance (F [3, 160] = 5.6, p < .001). Gender was the only
significant predictor of the use of Facebook to develop new relationships (“virtual
community”). This time male respondents (β = -.40*) went to Facebook to meet
new people, or to develop a romantic relationship more than female respondents
(adjusted R² = 0.03; F [2, 161] = 3.32, p <.05). Gender was the only significant
predictor of respondents’ going to Facebook for entertainment reasons (adjusted
R² = .04; F [2,161] = 3.56, p < .05). More females (β =.42**) than males went to
Facebook to be entertained and see other people’s profiles. Nothing significantly
Student Favorite: Facebook and Motives for its Use 47
predicted respondents going to Facebook to appear cool or relieve loneliness
Gender differences emerged also from the multivariate analysis of variance
for four of six Facebook motives: relationship maintenance, F [1,162] = 24.15, p <
.001; virtual community, F [1,162] = 6.5, p < .05; passing time, F [1,162] = 9.2, p
< .01; and entertainment, F [1,162] = 7.15, p < .01. Females were more motivated
than males to go on Facebook in order to maintain relationships, to be entertained
and to pass time. On the other hand, males were more motivated to use Facebook
for developing new relationships.
Overall, results suggest that women are more likely than men to use Face-
book to maintain existing relationships, pass time and be entertained. On the
other hand, men are more likely than women to use Facebook to develop new
relationships or meet new people. Younger respondents are more likely than older
respondents to use Facebook to maintain existing relationships also to meet new
Predictors of Behavioral and Attitudinal Outcomes
Finally, the third research question asked, “To what extent can gratifications
of Facebook use and demographics predict attitudinal and behavioral outcomes
on Facebook use?” Stepwise multiple regressions were run for dependent variables:
the number of hours spent on Facebook, the number of logs into the account,
months spent on Facebook, the number of Facebook friends, uploading the site,
satisfaction with Facebook, and addiction to the site.
The demographic variables (age, gender, education) were entered on the first
step of the regression analysis. Six motives for Facebook use (relationship mainte-
nance, passing time, virtual community, entertainment, coolness and companion-
ship) were added next.
Results showed that relationship maintenance (β = .23**) and passing time (β
= .15***) positively predicted the number of hours students spend on Facebook.
The first model with demographic variables explained 3.8 percent of the variance.
However, when passing time and relationship maintenance factors were added,
the adjusted R² increased 10 percent. Finally, only passing time and relationship
maintenance motives were found to be significant predictors of the number of
hours respondents spend on Facebook (Adjusted R² = .13, F [5,158] = 5.87, p<
Relationship maintenance (β = .50***), passing time (β = .60***), entertain-
ment (β= .28***), and coolness (β=.16*) motives were significant predictors for
how often students log into the account. The first demographics model explained
only 7.6 percent of the variance. However, the passing time factor, entered next,
added 16 percent to the total variance. Other motives, entered last, added signifi-
cantly to the equation by increasing the total variance by 16 percent (Adjusted R²
= .39, F [7, 156] = 15.92, p<.001]. Students who most often logged into their
Facebook account were the ones who go there to maintain existing relationships,
pass time when bored, be entertained or appear cool.
Years-in-college (β = 3.86***) was the only predictor of students’ overall
months spent on Facebook. The older the students, the longer they have had an
account (Adjusted R²=.174, F [3,160] = 12.48, p<.001).
48 Southwestern Mass Communication Journal Spring 2008
Relationship maintenance (β = .37***) and age (β = -.23***) were significant
predictors of the numbers of friends students had on Facebook (Adjusted R²=.18,
F [4, 159] = 10.14, p<.001). Students who were younger and who went to Face-
book to maintain existing relationships had more friends than students who went
for other reasons. According to Hecht,1 the number of friends is the measure of
The entertainment motive (β = .20*) and passing time (β = .45***) were
significant predictors of changing a Facebook profile (Adjusted R² = .16, F [5,
158] = 7.41, p<.001) with the passing time motive explaining 10 percent of the
overall variance. Therefore, students who were more likely to change their Face-
book profile were those who were bored and wanted to occupy their time and be
Relationship maintenance (β = .15*), entertainment (β = .20**), and passing
time motives (β = .13*) were significant predictors of students’ satisfaction with
Facebook (Adjusted R² = .14, F [6, 157] = 5.33, p<.001). Students who were on
Facebook to communicate with their offline friends, to be entertained, read other
people’s profiles and to occupy time when bored were more satisfied with the job
Facebook was doing.
Entertainment (β = .58***), relationship maintenance (β = .48***), pass-
ing time (β = .41***), and coolness (β = .18*) all predicted how much students
would miss the site if it suddenly disappeared (Adjusted R² = .385, F [7, 156] =
15.59, p<.001). Entertainment motives explained 14 percent of the total vari-
ance. It seemed that the students who would most miss the site were those who
went to Facebook to see other people’s pictures, to read their profile and to be
Although demographics were not the most important predictors of behav-
ioral and attitudinal outcomes of Facebook use, the multivariate analysis of vari-
ance showed that female respondents had more Facebook friends (F [1,170] =
18.12, p<.001), were more satisfied with the job Facebook is doing (F [1,170] =
4, p<.01), would miss it more if it disappeared (F [1,170] = 14.87, p<.005) and
spent more hours on Facebook (F [1,170] = 3.94, p<.005) than male respondents.
This suggests that females were more involved in online interpersonal relation-
ships than males (Parks and Floyd, 1996) and that they more readily develop
As college students spend more time online than each generation before, it is
important to know the gratifications they seek and obtain from the new media.
Many media outlets have warned about Digital Natives’ addiction to the social
networking websites. However, there is little research on who uses them and why
and what the outcome of their social networking is. In order to discover motives
(gratifications sought) for using the Facebook, how individual differences (age,
gender, education) relate to motives for Facebook use, and to what extent mo-
tives and individual differences can predict attitudinal and behavioral outcomes
of Facebook, we conducted a survey with 172 students at a large southern research
Student Favorite: Facebook and Motives for its Use 49
Of the sample surveyed, 93 percent of students had a Facebook account and
7 percent did not have the account. Students in this sample reported that on an
average they spent on Facebook 47 minutes a day. Overall, 81 percent of students
logged into Facebook on a daily basis. The majority of students had between 200
and 350 Facebook friends.
Most students go to Facebook to maintain relationships with people they
know. Their motives include behaviors such as sending a message to a friend,
posting a message on their friend’s wall, staying in touch with a friend or get-
ting in touch with someone who is difficult to reach. Females go to Facebook
for relationship maintenance more than males. A larger proportion of students,
more so females than males, go to Facebook to pass time when they are bored or
after they receive an e-mail suggesting them that someone had posted on their
Facebook site. A significant number of students, more so females than males, use
Facebook for entertainment reasons. A smaller number of people use it to develop
new relationships or to meet new people, more so males and younger respondents
than females and older respondents. This supports what Tewksbury and Althaus
(2000) suggested: entertainment and passing time – gratifications typically as-
sociated with television and newspaper use – prove to be significant predictors
of using Facebook. It also correspondents with the findings of Parks and Floyd
(1996), which suggests that females are more involved in online interpersonal
relationships than men are.
The number of hours respondents spent on Facebook is correlated to main-
taining relationships and passing time motives. Students who most often log into
their Facebook account are the ones who go there to maintain existing relation-
ships, pass time when bored, be entertained or appear cool. Younger students, fe-
males and those interested in maintaining existing relationships through Facebook
have more Facebook friends than students with other interests. As Parks and Floyd
(1996) noted, those who posted more often had developed a greater number of
personal relationships. The data show that not many people go to Facebook to
escape from problems in real life or to lessen loneliness by finding companion-
ship. Factor analysis eliminated escape and companionship as motives for using
Generally, the findings of this study are consistent with findings of Flaherty,
Pearce, and Rubin (1998). Those findings suggested that people use computers to
satisfy needs traditionally fulfilled by media (i.e., pass time, habit, information,
and entertainment). It supported LaRose et al. (2001), which suggested that the
expectation of finding enjoyable activities online predicted the amount of con-
sumption a user was likely to engage in.
According to the uses and gratifications model, a person’s social and psycho-
logical factors influence motives for communicating - their gratifications sought
and gratifications obtained. In this study, we found that gender, and to lesser
extent age and education of college students, were important predictors of using
Facebook to maintain existing relationships and pass time, with women more
likely to do it than men. Therefore, women tend to spend more time on Facebook
than men, have more friends, are more satisfied with the job Facebook is doing
and would have missed the site more if it suddenly disappeared.
50 Southwestern Mass Communication Journal Spring 2008
Similarly to nonacademic sources, this study found that Facebook allows
people to stay in touch with old friends and those at other schools, check how
many personal messages/wall posts they received from their friends, and see other
people’s pictures and new features that Facebook continually adds. Students also
search for new people who have recently joined the Facebook and whom they
might know or want to meet (Withall, 2005).
Limitations. This study was limited in a few ways. First, the list of needs
was not comprehensive. Inclusion of other needs may alter the findings. Second,
the use of a convenience sample prevents a generalization of the findings to the
population of Facebook users. Sampling restrictions hampered the potential ex-
ternal validity of the study. At the time the data were collected, Facebook had just
opened access to the general public. If we had conducted the study several months
later, after access to the general public had been granted, we would probably have
obtained a different population for our sample, which would have hewed closer to
providing external validity to the actual population of Facebook users.
Future studies could compare demographic characteristics of people who
have Facebook accounts with those who do not. They could measure social capital
(bridging and bonding) in online and offline contexts. They could compare mo-
tivations for site’s use between high school students and college students and be-
tween different colleges and schools. Those limitations stipulated, this study had
several strong points. First, its goal was to find unique dimensions of Facebook use
unidentified in existing literature. It helped us to understand what motivates peo-
ple to use Facebook, and what personal and social attributes affect its use. In light
of uses and gratification theory, the study found that people go to Facebook to
fulfill needs traditionally fulfilled by other media. But first and foremost, they use
it to satisfy their interpersonal communication needs (relationship maintenance).
This supports Dicken-Garcia (1998), which contends that the Internet places
stronger emphasis on informal, interpersonal conversations than has been true of
earlier media. It found what Flanagin and Metzger’s (2001) findings showed: mass
media needs now include interpersonal needs such as relationship maintenance.
Future studies should explore to what extent mass communication is a sub-
stitute for interpersonal communication and how people use false identities to
communicate on Facebook. They could also test for other personal predictors
of Facebook use, such as locus of control and for the relationships between self-
disclosure and relationship development on Facebook. Studies should be con-
ducted using other theoretical approaches, such as the social penetration theory
and agenda-setting theory.
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