OGDEN — Someone posts a comment on Facebook that you don't like. Do you ignore it, reply, or unfriend them? Your response may depend on your personality.
Weber State University students, working with assistant psychology professor Shannon McGillivray, spent six months researching the connection between Facebook usage and different types of personalities.
“Facebook is obviously extremely popular, especially amongst younger college-age students,” said McGillivray. “Some of the students were interested in studying Facebook, and especially whether personality types related to different uses, motivations and emotions associated with Facebook.”
The four students, Lyndsi Drysdale, Crystal Garcia, Kaitlin Staker and Corbin Standley, were able to examine the personalities of 192 people who volunteered to be in a test group. The subjects ranged in age from 18 to 70.
One of the surveys measured a person's degree of narcissism.
“Narcisists have a very inflated sense of self,” the professor explained.
Another survey examined what psychologists refer to as the “Big Five” personality traits, which individuals exhibit to differing degrees: Extroversion, openness to experience, conscientiousness, agreeableness and neuroticism.
The results of those surveys were compared with a survey about why and how the test subjects used Facebook.
It turns out that certain personality traits are not associated with specific reasons why people sign up for Facebook, or how they set up their page.
“There were not any differences, in terms of personality traits, accounting for what you see,” said McGillivray.
The reasons for adding people as friends — from inviting only people who are close friends or family to inviting people because they are attractive or a co-worker — are also not associated with any specific personality trait.
But when WSU researchers asked test subjects why they continue to use Facebook, there were some patterns.
“We gave them options, like 'it's entertaining, to share information, to play games, or for work' ” McGillivray said. “To share activities with family and Facebook friends was associated with agreeableness only.”
Playing games tended to be associated with more neurotic individuals, and as a result they were more likely to spend longer periods of time on Facebook. This is characteristic of addictive behavior, according to the researchers.
Not surprisingly, narcissists are most likely to post something because they want everyone to know what they're up to.
“Narcissists are more likely to say they only post important things,” said McGillivray.
Personality traits had more to do with emotions felt while using Facebook.
“We looked at unfriending as one of the things that could maybe elicit some sort of emotional response,” the professor said. “We found that narcissists, and people who are more extroverted, are less likely to block or unfriend people. … They're also more likely to have more friends on Facebook.”
The researchers were a bit surprised by the reasons people with certain traits gave for unfriending.
“We gave them choices, such as too many controversial posts, too many updates, and because I don't talk to that person anymore,” McGillivray said.
People whose surveys indicated that their dominant trait is openness to experience were more likely to unfriend someone because of controversial posts.
“On the surface that is almost counterintuitive,” said McGillivray.
However, being open to experiences can be associated with being more creative and more liberal.
“A controversial post could be seen as too political, or too derogatory toward certain groups, and that could be offensive to someone who has that personality trait,” she said.
Research showed that conscientious people were the ones who unfriended because someone posted too many updates.
“They're very organized, so constant updates may bother them,” she said.
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The students also looked at the emotional responses of test subjects who had been unfriended. Group members were asked if they were upset, surprised, bothered, amused, sad, angry, or didn't really feel much of anything when unfriended.
“People who are more neurotic are more likely to feel upset,” McGillivray said. “Very agreeable people are more likely to feel surprised.”
Those responses made sense, she said, as did that of the narcissists in the group
“Narcicists enjoy being adored, so they're more likely to be angry in response to people who don't want to be their friend anymore,” she said.
The student researchers presented their findings to members of the Rocky Mountain Psychological Association in the spring, as well as at the Utah Conference of Undergraduate Research, and at the WSU Undergraduate Research Symposium. In addition, they published their work in “ERGO,” WSU's undergraduate research journal.
“They received a lot of positive feedback, and people were interested in their findings,” McGillivray said. “Most of us use Facebook, or know someone who uses it obsessively. … It's such a part of our daily life now, that it's interesting to see who does what.”