Facebook can be addicting than coffee. Healthcare digital marketing agency Omnicore Agency previously found that 50% of 18- to 34-year old smartphone users check Facebook when they wake up. For every 60 seconds, there are 400 new users, 317,000 status updates, 147,000 photos uploaded, and 54,000 shared links. This led the social media giant to change the way hundreds of millions of users to share information and relate to one another.
Just as Facebook users grow, so does social scientists who assess the impact of the platform on people’s social life. Researchers have recognized the helpfulness of FB as a tool to observe the behavior of people in a natural setting, recruit participants, and test their hypothesis. Gwendolyn Seidman Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology and chair of the psychology department at Albright College, for instance, highlights that our social media activity and profiles can reveal our personalities.
Social media and the Big Five personality traits
Although there are opportunities to show an idealized image and control what we post online, the study suggests that social media profiles still reflect the users’ actual personalities. Seidman focused on the Big Five personality traits, which are extraversion (feeling energized by interaction with others), conscientiousness (being hardworking, organized, and practical), agreeableness (cooperativeness, warmth, and a desire to get along with others), openness (intellectualism, creativity, and openness to new experiences), and neuroticism (anxiety and moodiness).
Researchers studying personality and social media usually record users’ behavior or ask about their behaviors to know what relates to different personality traits. Several patterns were found by authors Dong Lui and Keith Campbell. Their study, which appeared in the Journal of Research in Personality, suggests that extraverts (outgoing people) tend to spend more time interacting with others on social media.
Furthermore, conscientious individuals tend to spend less time on social media to play games or learn about others. Those high in agreeableness trait tend not to be any more or less social compared to the less agreeable people although they do post more pictures. On the other hand, those high in openness prefer the opposite social media pattern observed among high conscientiousness. They take more time gaming or seeking information about others. Meanwhile, neuroticism was linked to posting more content and updates on social media.
What people link on Facebook
A study conducted by Michal Kosinski from the University of Cambridge and the team analyzed the dataset of more than 58,000 volunteers who provided their Facebook Likes and detailed demographic profiles. They found that what people like on social media is linked to their personality. Their preferences for different TV shows, music, websites, types of contents, or music all relate to their personality. They even found that Facebook Likes predicted their participants’ personality better than the reports provided by people who knew them.
The language people use on social media
In another study titled “Automatic Personality Assessment Through Social Media Language,” Gregory Park and the team said that millions of people express themselves in social media. Through simple text messages, for instance, they freely share their emotions and thoughts with their friends, in a larger group, or even the entire online world. The language used by people is a rich source of psychological data with scientific potential, the team added.
So, the team used a computer algorithm to know which words were uniquely linked to different personality traits. Words “love,” “night,” and “party” predicted high levels of extraversion. These are words that reflect relationships or social activity. On the contrary, words that reflect low levels of extraversion include “I don’t,” “I’ve,” and “computer.” These words reflect a preference for activities or things rather than people and have a greater focus on oneself.
The authors found that highly conscientious individuals were more likely to use words “weekend,” “week,” and “family.” These language choices indicate the tendency to focus on family responsibilities and to plan. Individuals with low levels of conscientiousness were more likely to post swear words and indicate a lack of caution on things they post.
Meanwhile, agreeable people used more positive words and those low in agreeableness used hostile swear words and other negative words. Neuroticism was moreover linked with using negative language but sadder instead of an angry tone.
Reader’s Digest suggests that although it’s not always easy to express how we feel in a limited text character or read between the lines of text on social media, our tone matters. “People can get a sense of your personality and how you treat others by the way you phrased your comments,” psychologist Sarah Schewitz, PsyD told RD. Schewitz was not involved in any of the studies mentioned above.
She explains that whatever you comment or post online can give a stranger a glimpse into what you believe in. It may be okay in a private account but if you post a very opinionated content on LinkedIn, you may be pushing away potential job opportunities. A viewer can learn a lot about your values and beliefs. There are also photos to never share online.
Emarketer has broken down social media usage by generation. What they found is interesting as 90.4% of Millennials, 48.2% of Baby Boomers and 77.5% of Generation X are active on social media. Millennials also have the broadest access to smartphones.
Global Web Index also shows that there are people from different countries who have temporarily deactivated their accounts. Their most common reasons are they were no longer interested in what other people do or share (26%), they wanted to spend their time doing other things, such as their hobbies (25%), they were concerned that what they post on social media may impact them in the future, like employment possibilities (25%), they felt social media has become too persona-image driven or shallow (22%), they don’t feel like being dependent on social media (221%), and some don’t trust the social media companies with their data or content (20%).
As to the effects of social media on their relationships, 41% of the respondents said it makes them feel more connected in their relationships with people in real life, 35% said it does not affect their relationships with people in real life, 13% said it makes them feel disconnected, and 11% said they’re not too sure.
It’s hard to ignore social media but the time you spent, the content you react to, and the words you use may be revealing much more than you realize.