What Your Facebook Status Updates Say About Your Personality

Researchers delve into Facebook, looking into what our status updates say about our personalities.

Researchers never seem to run out of new ways to examine Facebook and the interactions that take place within. Here at Big Think, we've written about a number of Facebook studies looking into why it's addictive, why it may make you feel depressed, and why couples who post more photos are generally happier. This Facebook research study centers around the topic of status updates: What do we write about and what does it say about us?


Psychology professor Tara C. Marshall from Brunel University London led the study where they recruited 555 Facebook users to participate. Researchers had all the participants complete several online surveys measuring the Big Five personality traits (extroversion, neuroticism, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness), as well as ones measuring self-esteem and narcissism.

After comparing the participant's survey results with data collected on their Facebook status updates, they found several trends. They noted people with low self-esteem posted more status updates about their current romantic partner, while narcissists posted more about their achievements. Also, narcissists posted more about diet and exercise routines. Researchers suggest they use Facebook as a way to broadcast how much attention they pay to maintain their physical appearance and in turn seek validation for their efforts from their Facebook community. And guess who tended to get more likes? The narcissists.

[P]eople with low self-esteem posted more status updates about their current romantic partner, while narcissists posted more about their achievements. Also, narcissists posted more about diet and exercise routines.

Marshall added in a press release: "Although our results suggest that narcissists' bragging pays off because they receive more likes and comments to their status updates, it could be that their Facebook friends politely offer support while secretly disliking such egotistical displays. Greater awareness of how one's status updates might be perceived by friends could help people to avoid topics that annoy more than they entertain."

This suggestion makes me wonder about the psychology behind the cryptic status updates I've seen throughout my years on Facebook. Its message is often shrouded in mystery — its tone dark and depressed. You may know what I'm talking about. They usually contain such things like “Giving up,” “Arg, Why me?” and so on that receive much curious attention from the Facebook community. Are posts such as those a rallying cry to garner the support someone needs in that moment? And does a continuous trend of those Facebook posts indicate a deeper problem?

While these questions may be all well and good, Facebook users may soon lose confidence in the network if their posts aren't being seen. Social media guru Guy Kawasaki said in an interview a few months ago that Facebook users were becoming more aware their postings aren't being seen by all their followers and friends. This, Kawasaki said, could result in a loss of confidence with their community.

Read more at Science Daily.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

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