The ubiquitous social networking site, Facebook, registered over one billion active users in 2012 and continues to grow (Facebook, 2018a). Not surprisingly, communication researchers around the world noticed this phenomenal shift in communication practice, a practice aided by a combination of digital communication tools—easy to access communication networks, low cost bandwidth, smartphones, application features, and so on. These developments transformed the understanding of “social networks,” turning them from face-to-face interactions among small groups into world spanning digital connections, from networks of business or professional associations supported by analogue or “old” communication practices (such as letter writing, telephone calls, or conference meetings) into always-on real-time tracking of people’s activities.
This review examines 400 articles published between 2006 and 2017 in peer reviewed communication- related journals and listed in the EBSCO Communication Source database. The database returned the initial list of articles to a query using the single search term “Facebook.” Subsequent analysis grouped the articles into a number of themes. As we will see, much of the published research that involves Facebook addresses not Facebook itself but Facebook as a source of material or research data on more particular communication topics. In a way, Facebook appears as another medium for communication.
After some introductory comments on the history and prior study of Facebook, this review will present the key themes that appear in the research. These include Facebook in theoretical perspectives, Facebook used in interpersonal communication, Facebook’s relationship to journalism, Facebook in education, Facebook in political communication, corporate and organizational use of Facebook, legal and ethical issues arising with Facebook, and other areas of research.