Comparing actual and self-reported measures of Facebook use

Numerous studies exist examining how college students use Facebook and how this affects aspects of their college experience; however, all of these studies have relied on self-report measures of Facebook use. Research in other areas of human behavior has shown that self-report measures are substantially inaccurate when compared to actual behaviors. This study provides the first test of the criterion validity of measures of Facebook frequency by comparing self-reported time spent on the site and number of logins against actual usage as measured by computer monitoring software. A sample of 45 college students installed software that monitored their computer usage for 1 month. There was a strong positive correlation between self-reported and actual time spent on Facebook; however, there was a significant discrepancy between the two. Students spent an average of 26 min (SD = 30) per day on Facebook, significantly lower than the average of 145 (SD = 111) minutes per day obtained through self-report. There was a moderate relationship between number of logins and actual time spent on Facebook. Although there are some limitations of monitoring computer usage, researchers are encouraged to attempt to relate their self-report measures to actual behaviors in order to improve external validity.
Author: Reynol Junco
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