WIUM Tristates Public Radio

WIU Professor Uses Facebook for Research

May 31, 2013

Many companies are using what you post on Facebook to learn more about you. Another group of people is also using Facebook to gather data, researchers.

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Christopher Carpenter is a communications Professor at Western Illinois University. He previously looked at narcissism on Facebook and in his new study, being published the journal “Computers in Human Behavior” he looks at romantic relationships on Facebook.

Specifically  the study examines the “self-expansion model” for looking at romantic relationships.

"As people develop close relationships that their sense of self kind of expands to include that other person in their sense of self , they start to kind of take on some of the traits and knowledge of the other person," Carpenter explained.

WIU Communications Professor Christopher Carpenter, his study on romantic relationships and Facebook will be published in July.
Credit WIU

In this new study Carpenter wanted to know if that expansion was retained after a relationship ends.

"Nobody as far as I have been able to read, had looked at that sort of past residue probably staying on, and that expanded self being something that remains after the relationship is over," he said.

Carpenter used Facebook because users list their interests in their profiles, so he could examine over time if the amount grew or shrank with relationships. He used an survey that Facebook users filled out that asked about their number of interests and their relationships.

Though, Carpenter said that anytime you ask people to report data themselves there are risks.

He said it's a well know phenomena that if asked about their weight on online survey's people consistently lie.

As people develop close relationships that their sense of self kind of expands to include that other person...

Even with some reporting errors from the participants, Carpenter said he did find that people retain the interests gained from past relationship. Though he said, the same wasn't true for Facebook friends.

"So it does kind of suggest that while  you might still like the same TV show you got into because you were dating this girl, you're not still Facebook friends with her friends," he said.

Carpenter said he is convinced that Facebook is a useful tool for this kind of research. He said he already as tow more studies in mind, if he can find the time.

One involves looking at users ability to persuade others on Facebook. He said he already did a small study with WIU undergrads asking how they would use Facebook to change someone's political beliefs..

"The most common response was, I wouldn't." he said.

Carpenter co-authored the study with Erin Spottswood of Cornell University.

"Exploring romantic relationships on social networking sites using the self-expansion model," will be published in the July issue of the journal “Computers in Human Behavior.”