New research shows that your friends who always share their fitness routines on Facebook or other social media have psychological problems, as do those who post regularly about their romantic partners. The study, conducted by psychologists at Brunel University London, surveyed Facebook users and examined personality traits against motives and status updates – an area of research that is only now beginning to garner much attention.
In particular, they gathered Facebook data from 555 users who also completed surveys of their ‘Big Five’ personality traits – agreeableness, conscientiousness, extroversion, neroticism, and openness – in addition to examining self-esteem and narcissism.
- Facebook users with low self-esteem posted updates about their romantic partners far more frequently.
- Facebook users who scored high on the narcissism metric posted far more frequently about their achievements, particularly fitness-related. These updates also tended to garner more likes and comments, feeding into the narcissistic need for attention.
- Users who scored high on conscientiousness were far more likely to post updates about their children, though the research did not make clear what causality may have been connected to that correlation.
As one of the lead researchers, Dr Tara Marshall, noted:
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.
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.
As the research team noted, further studies are need to better understand the responses that particular types of status updates garner, and to better understand – beyond these broad generalities – what status updates may say about the users posting them.
You can read more about the study in Science Direct.