It’s possible to know what your Facebook status says about you.

Why do some people update Facebook by writing about a party they went to last night, while others share a great article they found? That question has lead a group of UK researchers to examine whether your personality type might change the way you use social media – and the results will probably make for uncomfortable reading for all of us.

The researchers tested more than 550 people for the so-called “big five” personality traits – extroversion, neuroticism, openness to experience, agreeableness, and conscientiousness – and how those traits were linked to the way they behave on Facebook.

The results, published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, perhaps unsurprisingly indicate that we are all really just a bunch of insecure attention-seekers.

“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,” Tara Marshall and her colleagues from Brunel University wrote of their findings, in a sentence that indicates at least one of the team was inspired to do the study by someone who kept coming up in their news feed – a far more brilliantly passive-aggressive response than just clicking “unfollow”.


So what do your Facebook status updates say about you?

 You post a lot about your loved ones.

Uh-oh, you may think you are full of love, but the research team found posting a lot about your romantic partner was linked to having low self-esteem.

“Considering that people with low self-esteem tend to be more chronically fearful of losing their romantic partner, and that people are more likely to post relationship-relevant information on Facebook on days when they feel insecure, it is reasonable to surmise that people with low self-esteem update about their partner as a way of laying claim to their relationship when it feels threatened,” they said.

You post about meals you just ate or your exercise regime.

Chances are, you are a narcissist. That is you are self-aggrandising, vain, and exhibitionistic. Ouch. The research found narcissistic personality types used Facebook for validation, and suggested they “may broadcast their diet and exercise routine to express the personal importance they place on physical appearance”.

You post a lot about what’s going on in the world.

Okay, you can breathe a sigh of relief. The study found posting lots of articles about intellectual topics was linked with having a higher degree of openness; that is you tend to be creative, intellectual, and curious.

“People high in openness, then, may write updates about current events, research, or their political views for the purpose of sharing impersonal information rather than for socialising,” the researchers said.

You write a lot about your children

According to the study, chances are you are more conscientious than most. But even that may have a dark side.

“Conscientious individuals may update about their children for purposes other than communicating with their friends,” the researcher said. “Perhaps such updates reflect an indirect form of competitive parenting.”

(Or perhaps this study reflects the research team needing to do a friend cull?)

But the whole thing isn’t just an exercise in character assassination. They also discovered what factors might get you more ‘likes’ and comments on Facebook. And it ain’t just being an outgoing person who posts a lot.

“Narcissism rather than self-esteem was associated with receiving a greater number of likes and comments to one’s updates,” they said. While all those intellectual articles about the world may mean the poster is a better person, they aren’t necessarily getting the attention of their friends.

Instead, posting about achievements, social activities and everyday life got the most likes and comments.

“Thus, narcissists’ publicising of their achievements appeared to be positively reinforced by the attention and validation they crave,” they concluded.

Source: Sydney Morning Herald