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There are three prepositions to use with the verb live when describing the location you live at/on/in.

What makes the situation here different is that in the previous case your location would be an actual/real one, where is it not the issue here.

So when someone wants to describe the idea that s/he spends all her/his time on a social media site, say Facebook for example. Then, what is the right preposition after "live"? As it is doesn't actually mean living, I'm putting it in a scare quotes to make sense.

I "live" on/at Facebook.

I think it should be "on" as it is followed by a social media platform after all, but the verb live makes it a bit confusing.

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In standard usage,

  • To live on something means it's what you predominantly eat "The panda lives on bamboo", "The actor lives on excitement"
  • To live at somewhere means it's where you predominantly are "He lives at the office", "He lives at the top of the hill"
  • To be on transport means you're on a bicycle, a train, a plane "He is on the plane to New York"

As you are normally "on the web", "on a web site", "on the computer", "find me on Facebook", "are you on Facebook?" (do you have an account?) the most usual would be "You're always on Facebook."

In your sentence

  • To live on Facebook means it's your nourishment or habitual transport to be on
  • To live at Facebook means it's your home. This could be a) the case where you are a Facebook employee or client, and you spend a lot of time at the office (exageration), or b) the case where you speak of mental life as if it was spatial.

Both are perfectly natural for your sentence.

  • Thank you for this amazing answer! I thought it is just a matter of correct and incorrect, but as it appeared to have different implications, I would like to know if "live in Facebook" might have a specific meaning too? – Tasneem ZH May 5 at 5:01
  • Also, about "live on Facebook", I don't quite get how it can be a "transport", but I well understand that it indicates its essentiality and necessity in someone's life by defining it as nourishment. – Tasneem ZH May 5 at 5:06
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    The natural meaning would be nourishment, but consider: "You're always travelling", "Yes, I live on the plane". "Not me, I live on Facebook." Here "on Facebook" sounds like transport to me, exactly like "on transport". I certainly agree it's ambiguous in its detail. – jonathanjo May 6 at 10:50
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    @jonathanjo While you're answer is accurate, it doesn't really address the exact nature of Tasneem ZH's question. The colloquialism "to live on some website (or other unreal location)" means "to spend most of my life -- possibly too much -- perusing or otherwise enjoying myself there". It's not uncommon slang. There is a big difference between "on" and "at" in this scenario which I think you need to clarify. – Andrew May 7 at 14:47
  • @Andrew thanks for comment. To my mostly-UK native speaker ears, they sound identical in meaning. What difference do you hear? – jonathanjo May 7 at 14:52
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While jonathanjo is correct that "To live on some substance" means to use that for nourishment, that's not the meaning I think you are asking about with Facebook.

The colloquial expression "to live on some website (or other unreal location)" means:

to spend most of your life -- possibly too much -- perusing or otherwise enjoying yourself there

"I live on Facebook means that you are, figuratively, always posting to or browsing Facebook. You can say the same thing about Snapchat, or Instagram, or whatever is the newest popular site these days.

You can also live on some online game:

My kids seem to live on Fortnight. I have to threaten to turn off the power to get them to come down and eat dinner.

Meanwhile, to live at some location implies that it is your physical residence. "I live at Facebook," suggests that the offices of the Facebook company are either your literal home, or that you have to spend so much time there that they feel like your home.

This would make sense if you are a Facebook employee, or someone like a client who needs to visit the corporate offices all the time.

We've had problems pushing through the latest update, so lately I pretty much live at Facebook, writing code until late at night and even sleeping there when I'm too tired to go home.

  • Thanks for point it out. I was intending my second answer ("it's your home") to include the case where you actually go to the building, as well as where you go to the virtual place. I' update my answer to cover. – jonathanjo May 7 at 15:15
  • Many thanks to you, Andrew. You have stated the difference between them in a very clear and simple way. – Tasneem ZH May 8 at 9:52

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