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May 22

By Traci Pedersen

Facebook users who post frequent status updates about their romantic partner are more likely to suffer from low self-esteem, while those who boast about diets, exercise, and accomplishments are more likely narcissists, according to a new study by psychologists at Brunel University.

For the study, Facebook users completed a survey that was designed to examine the personality traits and motives that influence the topics they choose to write about in their status updates — a topic that few previous studies have explored.

“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,” said psychology lecturer Dr. Tara Marshall from Brunel University London.

“People who receive more likes and comments tend to experience the benefits of social inclusion, whereas those who receive none feel ostracized.”

“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.”

The data was collected from 555 Facebook users who completed online surveys designed to measure the ‘Big Five’ personality traits — extroversion, neuroticism, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness — as well as self-esteem and narcissism.

The researchers discovered the following facts:

Participants with low self-esteem more frequently posted status updates about their current romantic partner.
Those who scored high in narcissism more frequently updated about their achievements, which was motivated by their need for attention and validation from the Facebook community. These statuses also received a greater number of ‘likes’ and comments, indicating that narcissists’ bragging may be reinforced by the attention they crave.
Narcissists also wrote more status updates about their diet and exercise routine, suggesting that Facebook is used as a platform to broadcast the effort they put into their physical appearance.
The trait of conscientiousness was associated with posting more status updates about one’s children.
The research team said future studies should look at the responses to particular status update topics, the likeability of the people who update about them, and whether certain topics prompt others to unfriend the posters.

Source: Brunel University

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