You will be hard-pressed to find anyone who isn’t on Facebook. In a relatively short space of time, this social networking service has gone from being a very small outfit and grown into one of the biggest, most popular and successful brands in recent times.
Its reach is global, with some estimating that the number of users is now over a billion. That is, to say the least, rather impressive and it is fair to say that Mark Zuckerberg’s company is one of the giants of the world. It has been a game-changer that has revolutionised much about modern life.
Now, what is fascinating about it is that it has the power to deliver interesting insights into our species – there is so much data to tap into, so much to be understood by what people post and say about themselves and others, that it is a rich resource for researchers.
The latest study to come out of this certainly makes for compelling reading. Psychologists at Brunel University examined in their paper, The Big Five, the status updates that people make. It is, after all, one of the most popular aspects of the service.
What they were keen to uncover was the personality traits of users who make status updates and what exactly their motivations are when it comes to writing about certain topics in these updates. It is surprisingly a much under-researched area, with few studies into it having been completed.
The title refers to five common personality traits, including extroversion, neuroticism, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness. The team also extended their survey to cover self-esteem and narcissism.
What they found was that those who possess low self-esteem tend to post status updates about their current romantic partner, while those categorised as being narcissistic are more inclined to inform everyone on a regular basis of their achievements.
For the latter, the psychologists explained that these group of individuals feed off the attention they get. They also enjoy the validation that it affords, which further feeds their ego.
Dr Tara Marshall, a psychology lecturer at Brunel University London, said: “It might come as little surprise that Facebook status updates reflect people’s personality traits.
“However, it is important to understand why people write about certain topics on Facebook because their updates may be differentially rewarded with ‘likes’ and comments. People who receive more likes and comments tend to experience the benefits of social inclusion, whereas those who receive none feel ostracised.”
No doubt these findings will give some people pause for thought because if they strongly identify with, for example a narcissist or someone with low self-esteem, they may think about changing things.
This is especially true if people are unaware of how they come across when they post status updates. Consequently, on the one hand, some will look to become more confident, while for others, a more modest approach may be on the agenda with Facebook activity.