The 25 Distinct Reasons People “Favorite” Things on Twitter

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
June 4 2014 4:23 PM

The 25 Distinct Reasons People “Favorite” Things on Twitter

25 reasons people favorite things on Twitter
Not 24 reasons. Not 26. Trust us, this is science.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

At last, science has answered the most pressing question of our age: What does it mean when someone favorites your tweet?

A team of intrepid researchers from Germany and the UK surveyed 606 Twitter users to arrive at a definitive conclusion—or rather, 25 definitive conclusions. Yes, there are exactly 25 distinct reasons why people favorite tweets, according to this exhaustive qualitative analysis.* Here are all 25, in order of their popularity among the survey's respondents.

Advertisement
  1. They liked your tweet for subjective reasons (e.g., because it was funny)
  2. They’re bookmarking it for future use (e.g., to read the attached article)
  3. They found it topically relevant
  4. It reflected their own opinion
  5. They agreed with it but didn’t want to say so publicly
  6. It evoked in them a subjective emotional response (e.g., it made them feel special)
  7. It contained relevant multimedia content
  8. They really liked it, but not for any specific reason
  9. They’re bookmarking it as a memento
  10. They found it objectively emotional
  11. They were mentioned in it
  12. They liked it for objective reasons
  13. They’re signaling that they liked it, but not enough to retweet it
  14. You’re a celebrity
  15. They found it relevant to their current situation
  16. It’s their way of engaging in conversation
  17. They’re trying to engage others in it
  18. They’re trying to win a commercial competition (e.g., a ticket giveaway)
  19. They’re bookmarking it for a specific anticipated future need (e.g., to add to a recipe book)
  20. You’re their friend or lover
  21. You’re a member of their family
  22. They favorited it by accident
  23. They’re signaling that they liked it, and they consider favorites more meaningful than retweets
  24. They’re trying to win a non-commercial competition (e.g., they're Mike Isaac)
  25. They think the act of favoriting a tweet will help them remember it

Six respondents also admitted to favoriting things on Twitter for no reason at all, which just might be the most postmodern thing I've ever heard.

Will Oremus Will Oremus

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

As impeccable as the researchers’ methodology may be, I fell compelled to add one small caveat to the otherwise gospel-like accuracy of this taxonomy. While the survey included 606 Twitter users, only 395 of these people were even aware that the favorite button existed. And of those, only 290 had ever used it. As a result, some of the reasons on the list above were cited by only a small handful of respondents. It seems likely, then, that you’d get quite a few more reasons if you expanded the sample size.

Indeed, journalists who have attempted their own taxonomies in the past without the aid of formal surveys have come up with several reasons not cited by anyone in the study. Time’s Jessica Roy, for example, identified and described the flirt fav, the hate fav, the passive-aggressive fav, the sub fav, and the diplomatic fav. The Wire’s Rebecca Greenfield added the practical hate-fave, in which one favorites a tweet in order to remember to make fun of it later. (One could argue, however, that this is merely a subcategory of reason 19 in the official list above.) And The Atlantic’s Megan Garber mounted a strong case on behalf of the farewell fave, which occurs when one wants to terminate or leave a conversation without just straight-up ghosting.

To these I’d add one more:

Now if only science could solve the mystery of the Facebook poke.

*The authors assert in their introduction that they are about to provide a taxonomy of 25 distinct reasons, which makes for a catchy headline even though it’s difficult to discern from the paper itself exactly how they arrived at that number. This nifty Washington Post graphic purports to show all 25, but proceeds to list 30, by my admittedly inexpert count.

For purposes of this blog post, I’ve taken the researchers’ word that there is in fact a way to pick out precisely 25 reasons from the rather eccentrically numbered list provided in Figure 2, and I’ve done my best to pick out just those 25. Not 24. Not 26.  Certainly not 27, unless you’re counting sub-reasons B1.1 and B1.2 in addition to sub-sub-reasons B1.1.1, B1.1.2, B1.2.1, and B1.2.2, which I believe would be a grievous error. It is possible, however, that I’m wrong and we are meant to count the sub-reasons but not the sub-sub-reasons, in which case we’re down to 24, but then if we add “no specific reason” … oh, never mind.

Previously in Slate:

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

TODAY IN SLATE

History

Slate Plus Early Read: The Self-Made Man

The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada. Now, Journalists Can’t Even Say Her Name.

Mitt Romney May Be Weighing a 2016 Run. That Would Be a Big Mistake.

Amazing Photos From Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution

Transparent Is the Fall’s Only Great New Show

The XX Factor

Rehtaeh Parsons Was the Most Famous Victim in Canada

Now, journalists can't even say her name.

Doublex

Lena Dunham, the Book

More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.

What a Juicy New Book About Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric Fails to Tell Us About the TV News Business

Does Your Child Have Sluggish Cognitive Tempo? Or Is That Just a Disorder Made Up to Scare You?

  News & Politics
History
Sept. 29 2014 11:45 PM The Self-Made Man The story of America’s most pliable, pernicious, irrepressible myth.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 29 2014 7:01 PM We May Never Know If Larry Ellison Flew a Fighter Jet Under the Golden Gate Bridge
  Life
Dear Prudence
Sept. 30 2014 6:00 AM Drive-By Bounty Prudie advises a woman whose boyfriend demands she flash truckers on the highway.
  Double X
Doublex
Sept. 29 2014 11:43 PM Lena Dunham, the Book More shtick than honesty in Not That Kind of Girl.
  Slate Plus
Slate Fare
Sept. 29 2014 8:45 AM Slate Isn’t Too Liberal, but … What readers said about the magazine’s bias and balance.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 29 2014 9:06 PM Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice Looks Like a Comic Masterpiece
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 29 2014 11:56 PM Innovation Starvation, the Next Generation Humankind has lots of great ideas for the future. We need people to carry them out.
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 29 2014 11:32 PM The Daydream Disorder Is sluggish cognitive tempo a disease or disease mongering?
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 28 2014 8:30 PM NFL Players Die Young. Or Maybe They Live Long Lives. Why it’s so hard to pin down the effects of football on players’ lives.