To 'like' or not to 'like': a thematic analysis of social cues on Facebook

Machin, T. and Jeffries, C. and Brownlow, C. (2015) To 'like' or not to 'like': a thematic analysis of social cues on Facebook. In: 50th Australian Psychological Society Annual Conference (APS 2015): Celebrating the Past, Looking Toward the Future, 29 Sept - 2 Oct 2015, Gold Coast, Australia.


Aim: The aim of this research was to investigate online social cues of rejection and acceptance experienced by individuals on Facebook. Design: There has been limited research done in this area and so a qualitative data collection was undertaken to create an initial step in understanding this topic. Method: A purposeful sample of 20 Facebook users (13 Females) sourced from the researcher’s Facebook network, took part in structured interviews that occurred either face-to-face or over the telephone. These individuals were chosen as they were all familiar with the Facebook platform, had a wide range of ages and occupations, and lived in various parts of Australia. Results: A thematic analysis identified three main themes: social inclusion, social exclusion, and social comparison. In regards to the main theme of social inclusion there were five sub-themes identified: relationship acknowledgement (e.g. being included in check-ins or tagged photos), thinking of me (e.g. private messages), relationship affirmation (e.g. “likes” on status updates), relationship initiation (e.g. friend requests), and supportive relationship activities (e.g. using the chat feature). In regards to the main these of social exclusion there were also five sub-themes identified: being omitted from relationship activities (e.g. not being tagged in photos), criticism (e.g. passive-aggressive comments from others), relationship betrayal (e.g. being ‘blocked’ from viewing all of another user’s account), silence (e.g. no response), and relationship termination (e.g. defriending). The social comparison theme contained both positive (e.g. a busier ‘wall’ than others) and negative experiences (e.g. others get more ‘likes’).Conclusion: There are currently billions of people using Facebook across the world to socially interact with others. While there is a plethora of studies that have examined face-to-face social cues, this study provides a first step in understanding the social signals that allow individuals to evaluate the state of their online relationships. Future research could investigate if these themes can be generalised to a wider population sample.

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Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Commonwealth Reporting Category E) (Poster)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Permanent restricted access to published Abstract due to publisher copyright policy. Abstract only published in Conference Proceedings.
Faculty / Department / School: Current - Faculty of Health, Engineering and Sciences - School of Psychology and Counselling
Date Deposited: 08 Sep 2015 05:08
Last Modified: 07 Jul 2016 02:56
Uncontrolled Keywords: Facebook; social cues; rejection
Fields of Research : 08 Information and Computing Sciences > 0806 Information Systems > 080602 Computer-Human Interaction
17 Psychology and Cognitive Sciences > 1701 Psychology > 170113 Social and Community Psychology

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