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.

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Why are so many objects in space shaped like discs?

It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?

  • Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
  • Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
  • Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.

Scientists study tattooed corpses, find pigment in lymph nodes

It turns out, that tattoo ink can travel throughout your body and settle in lymph nodes.

17th August 1973: An American tattoo artist working on a client's shoulder. (Photo by F. Roy Kemp/BIPs/Getty Images)

In the slightly macabre experiment to find out where tattoo ink travels to in the body, French and German researchers recently used synchrotron X-ray fluorescence in four "inked" human cadavers — as well as one without. The results of their 2017 study? Some of the tattoo ink apparently settled in lymph nodes.

Image from the study.

As the authors explain in the study — they hail from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment — it would have been unethical to test this on live animals since those creatures would not be able to give permission to be tattooed.

Because of the prevalence of tattoos these days, the researchers wanted to find out if the ink could be harmful in some way.

"The increasing prevalence of tattoos provoked safety concerns with respect to particle distribution and effects inside the human body," they write.

It works like this: Since lymph nodes filter lymph, which is the fluid that carries white blood cells throughout the body in an effort to fight infections that are encountered, that is where some of the ink particles collect.

Image by authors of the study.

Titanium dioxide appears to be the thing that travels. It's a white tattoo ink pigment that's mixed with other colors all the time to control shades.

The study's authors will keep working on this in the meantime.

“In future experiments we will also look into the pigment and heavy metal burden of other, more distant internal organs and tissues in order to track any possible bio-distribution of tattoo ink ingredients throughout the body. The outcome of these investigations not only will be helpful in the assessment of the health risks associated with tattooing but also in the judgment of other exposures such as, e.g., the entrance of TiO2 nanoparticles present in cosmetics at the site of damaged skin."

Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

Do human beings have a magnetic sense? Biologists know other animals do. They think it helps creatures including bees, turtles and birds navigate through the world.

Keep reading Show less