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10 fascinating Facebook facts -- and what they say about us

Pete Cashmore
Mashable's Pete Cashmore says Facebook surveys provide intriguing insights into our online behaviors.
Mashable's Pete Cashmore says Facebook surveys provide intriguing insights into our online behaviors.
  • Mashable's Pete Cashmore offers 10 fun facts about Facebook, which 600 million use
  • No privacy controls for quarter of households with Facebook account, Consumer Reports say
  • Another survey finds 48% say they look at their ex's Facebook profile too often

Editor's note: Pete Cashmore is founder and CEO of Mashable, a popular tech-news blog. He writes occasional columns about social networking and tech for

(CNN) -- A study released this week revealed that 47% of Facebook users have swear words on their pages. A survey last week, meanwhile, showed that undergraduate men who talk about alcohol on Facebook tend to have more friends.

Whether it's our level of tolerance for swearing or the link between alcohol and bonding with friends, these Facebook studies provide intriguing insights into our online behaviors.

And yet I'd argue that Facebook surveys have a more fundamental role. With more than 600 million people actively using Facebook, these studies in fact provide a deeper understanding of our evolving cultural norms: our values, our morals and our changing relationships between one another.

Don't believe me? Here are some fascinating Facebook facts that just might serve as a peek into our 21st-century values.

1. 56% of Americans think it's irresponsible to friend your boss on Facebook

A survey released in February 2010 showed the majority of Americans don't find it socially acceptable to be Facebook friends with their boss. The study of 1,000 people by Liberty Mutual's Responsibility Project suggests that despite an increasing overlap between our work and home lives, we continue to value a separation between the two.

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Meanwhile, 62% of those surveyed said it's wrong for a manager to befriend an employee on Facebook. And yet 76% of respondents said it was acceptable to befriend a peer on Facebook, suggesting what we truly value is that our work be judged on its merits rather than getting ahead based on personal relationships.

2. Facebook links about sex are shared 90% more than average

Facebook confirms the adage: Sex sells. From February until May 2010, social media scientist Dan Zarrella processed 12,000 links to news sites and blogs. He discovered that links about sex were 90% more likely to be shared on Facebook than any other subject matter.

He also discovered that links with positive sentiment were more likely to be shared on Facebook than those with negative viewpoints.

3. People in Facebook relationships are happier than single people

In February 2010, Facebook marked Valentine's Day by comparing the relationship status of its users to their happiness -- this was surmised based on the level of positive or negative sentiment in the user's Facebook updates.

The result: Those in relationships were found to be slightly happier than single people. Those who were married or engaged were also happier than single people on average.

However, Facebook users in an "open relationship" -- where the partners are not exclusive to one another -- were significantly less happy than single people. Monogamy, it seems, makes us happy.

4. 21% of people would break up via Facebook

A June 2010 survey of 1,000 Facebook users -- 70% of whom were male -- found that 25% had been "dumped" via Facebook (via their significant other updating his or her relationship status).

Twenty-one percent of those surveyed said they would end a relationship by changing their Facebook relationship statuses to "single." While worrisome, the survey does show the majority of people do not split up via Facebook.

For this uncomfortable task, it seems, we still turn to more personal forms of communication. This particular study also appears to suffer from a little male bias -- a July 2010 survey found that 9% of women have initiated a breakup via Facebook, versus 24% of men.

5. 85% of women are annoyed by their Facebook friends

For women on Facebook, friends can sometimes be irritating. In a March study conducted by Eversave, 85% admitted to having been annoyed by their Facebook friends. Of these annoyances, the most cited was "complaining all the time" (63%).

Other pet peeves included "sharing unsolicited political views" (42%) and "bragging about seemingly perfect lives" (32%).

While I've yet to see a similar survey focused on men, it's probably safe to assume these feelings are universal: Our friends are a source of joy and occasional irritation.

6. 25% of households with a Facebook account don't use privacy controls

A June 2010 survey from Consumer Reports stated that "in one of four households with a Facebook account, users weren't aware of or didn't choose to use the service's privacy controls."

While Consumer Reports chose to interpret this finding in a negative light, I'd propose a contrary view: Seventy-five percent of households did take the time to understand Facebook's privacy controls, suggesting that privacy remains important to our society.

The same study stated that "Twenty-six percent of Facebook users with children had potentially exposed them to predators by posting the children's photos and names."

Again, the positive view would be that 74% of Facebook users with children did not post their photos and names -- suggesting that we value privacy.

7. 48% of parents friend their kids on Facebook

On the question of whether it's OK to friend your kids on Facebook, parents are roughly split down the middle -- 48% have chosen to do so. Respondents in a May 2010 survey by Retrevo admitted that this could be "awkward at times."

Parents were also asked about the minimum age at which their children should be allowed to sign up for Facebook or MySpace. Twenty-six percent of parents replied "over 18," 36% said "16 to 18," 30% said "13 to 15" and 8% said "under 13."

Opinions may be changing rapidly, however. A Consumer Reports survey released this month says the majority of parents of kids 10 and under "seemed largely unconcerned by their children's use" of Facebook.

8. 47% of Facebook users have profanity on their walls

As previously mentioned, a new study by the reputation management service Reppler has found that 47% of Facebook users have swear words on their walls, with these profanities being posted by a friend 56% of the time.

In other words: Nearly half of Facebook users are comfortable with swearing. The most common profanity on Facebook? No prizes for guessing: It's the "F-word."

9. 48% of people say they look at their ex's Facebook profile too often

In a January study by YouTango, 48% of respondents said they look at their ex's Facebook or other social-networking profile too often. The statistic illustrates one danger of social-networking profiles -- ex-partners are more accessible than ever.

But the survey also points to a degree of self-awareness among the respondents. While new technologies provide new temptations, it seems that many of us are able to control these behaviors.

10. 36% of under-35s check Facebook, Twitter or texts after sex

An October 2009 study by Retrevo suggested that social networks are becoming an increasingly important part of young people's lives. Among under-35s, 36% admitted to "tweeting, texting and checking Facebook after sex." Forty percent of respondents admitted to doing so while driving, 64% said they do so at work, and 65% use these communication channels while on vacation.

Here, we might conclude that the next generation is driving society into a less desirable direction: a world in which digital devices are never put down, even in the most inappropriate of situations.

And yet if Facebook is our guide, I'd say our cultural norms have remained intact. We continue to value professionalism. We find great rewards in human relationships -- and most of us try to exit them honorably.

On the whole, we continue to value privacy. We try to look out for our kids. And as we have been since time immemorial, we continue to be fascinated by sex -- after which we go straight to Facebook to find out what our exes are up to.


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