Tag Archives: facebook

Facebook’s ‘Like’ and Conspicuous Consumption

Wondering why we freely and often make our tastes public (specifically, our brand preferences through Facebook’s ‘Like’ mechanism), Nicolas Baumard discusses how we purchase goods to display our good taste:

In a way, Facebook can be seen as a handy device to send a lot of very precise signals about your opinion and your values! (The average user becomes a fan of four pages every month, according to Facebook). Note that this theory of marketing is just a form of honest signal theory, advocated previously by Veblen in social sciences and Zahavi in evolutionary biology. The difference is that, instead of being focused on the display of wealth, this bourdieusian explanation is interested by other qualities that also need to be adverstised by individuals such as intelligence, social connections, moral disposition, etc.

To conclude, people may buy razors advertised by Beckham not because they think that these razors made Beckham successful or because they trust Beckham is such matters but because buying a razor linked to Beckham convey a certain message about their distinction.

I feel that the ‘Like’ functionality is an expense-less method of conspicuous consumption: signalling your likes and brand preferences without having to actually purchase anything (we are saying “I aspire to be the type of person who likes x, y, z” or maybe more accurately “I want you to think I’m the type of person who likes x, y, z”).

I particularly like the introductory section on how Facebook’s ‘Like’ functionality has doubled brand integration on the site, compared to the old ‘Become a fan’ method. It has apparently reduced the mental barriers (lowered the “threshold”, they say) for users to signal their brand preferences, making sharing easier. And that last bit is key for Facebook.

via The Browser

The Dunbar Number and the Limits of Social Networking

The Economist looks at whether Dunbar’s number, the supposed limit of stable social relationships, holds true on social networking sites.

That […] online social networks will increase the size of human social groups is an obvious hypothesis, given that they reduce a lot of the friction and cost involved in keeping in touch with other people. […]

Primatologists call at least some of the things that happen on social networks “grooming“. In the wild, grooming is time-consuming and here computerisation certainly helps. But keeping track of who to groom—and why—demands quite a bit of mental computation. You need to remember who is allied with, hostile to, or lusts after whom, and act accordingly. Several years ago, therefore, Robin Dunbar, an anthropologist who now works at Oxford University, concluded that the cognitive power of the brain limits the size of the social network that an individual of any given species can develop.

Two items of note: Facebook has an “in-house sociologist”; and this man, Dr Cameron Marlow, reveals that the average number of friends correlates pretty closely to Dunbar’s number.

via Mind Hacks