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The Psychology of Facebook

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Ross, Orr, Sisic, Arseneault, Simmering, & Orr (2009) studied the connection between personality and competency of individuals and their associated behaviour on a social network site. To obtain this data, they used what is presently knows as the FFM – Five Factor Model (Costa and McCrae, 1992). This is based on two decades of personality assessment, revealing that five main dimensions are necessary and sufficient for broadly describing human personality. The FFM’s five dimensional traits; Neuroticism, Extroversion, Openness, Agreeableness and Conscientiousness are additionally measured using the Revised NEO Personality Inventory, or NEO PI-R – a psychological personality inventory specifically created to assess the five factors. Ross et all (2009) based his Facebook study on a self-reported questionnaire from 97 students at Southwestern Ontario University, using the FFM with the assessment of NEO PI-R.

This was in order to test the connection between the personality, behaviour and competency on Facebook users. Simply put, they wish to examine the nature of Facebook and how to predict the impact of its use via the users’ individual personality. Using the Five-Factor Model personality questionnaire, they obtained five predictions relating to the relationship between the individual user’s personality and their behaviour on Facebook. (They can be found at: Amachi-Hamburger., & Yair Vinitsky, Gideon., (2010). Social network use and personality. Computers Human Behaviour, 1289-1295)

The results indicated that traits of extraversion, neuroticism and openness to experience had expected trends, however, the researchers did not find any significant connection between Facebook behaviour and the personality factors of agreeableness and openness. In addition, personality factors were not as influential as first hypothesised and revealed that a motivation to communicate was very influential in terms of Facebook use. As per Ross et all. (2009) findings, it’s suggested that different motivations may be influential in the decision to use tools such as Facebook. Overall, while there were connections between the user’s personality and the predicted behaviour online, the connection was not strong. Hamburger and Vinitzky (2009), similar to Ross et all. (2009), studied and focused on the connection between the individual’s personality and behaviour on a social network, using the FFM on 237 students at an Israeli University.

However, in their study they replaced the self-reported questionnaire of subjects with more objective criteria – measurements of the user information uploaded on Facebook. Since self-reports are more likely to be influenced by social desirability (Impression Management: When we know that other people are watching us, we will tend to behave in a way we believe is socially acceptable and desirable), the researches believed that a more effective research method would be to examine the way people build their profile on Facebook instead of relying on self-report questionnaires – which are probably bias. A strong connection was found between personality and Facebook behaviour with this change.

The research difference between Hamburger & Vinitzky (2002) and Ross et all. (2009) suggests that information uploaded onto Facebook would limit the amount of biasness in the results and also creates a stronger connection between personality and behaviour online. It would be assumed that how/what an introvert or extrovert person uploads information on Facebook, they would not be conscious of the reasoning behind their uploads. (Assuming an average individual would not know the different reasoning behind having more Facebook friends compared to having more Facebook photos means about their personality). However, if the same individual/s answered a self-reported question, the answer may differ from their reasons of information upload onto Facebook, thus, changing the results about their “normal’ behaviour.

Research Report 1
According to Back et all. (2010), there has been limited research on the most fundamental question regarding the profiles of OSNs (Online Social Network); Do they convey accurate impressions of the profile owner? Out of 236 OSN users – 17-22 year old students from the US and Germany – the two hypothesis were measured with Accuracy criteria (indices of what profile owners were actually like), Ideal-self ratings (participants were asked to describe themselves as they ideally would like to be) and Observer ratings (how profile owners were perceived by research assistants). Two hypotheses were created and tested during this research in order to accurately measure an individual’s use of an OSN profile and what it means about their personality. They named these the Idealised virtual-identity and Extended real-life hypotheses.

For the Idealised real-life hypothesis, it is a widely held assumption that OSN profiles are used to create and communicate idealised selves. Therefore, personality impressions based on OSN profiles should reflect the profile owners’ ideal self-views rather than what the owners are actually like. However, Back et all. (2010) concluded that the Extended real-life hypothesis was consistent in the testing that people are not using their OSN profiles to promote an idealised virtual identity, instead, it’s supported that it’s an efficient medium for expressing and communicating their real personality. It was additionally supported that creating information about one’s own reputation (self-idealised) is difficult to control. For example, wall posts and friends providing accurate feedback and accountability could limit the accuracy of the profile. Further research should be investigated in order to create acute accuracy with the findings. Research Report 2

Ryan & Xenos (2011) conducted research into the reasoning behind how personality influences usage or non-usage of Facebook individuals. In order to effectively identify the types of people who use Facebook, the Five-Factor Model: aka the Big Five (Goldberg, 1990) is used and is regarded as the most common model to conduct this certain research. To obtain a sample of the average Australian Facebook user or non-user, 1,635 self-selected Australian internet users between 18 and 44 years of age participated in this study. Participants completed an online questionnaire of 124 questions compromising of; aims of the study, demographic questions, Big Five Inventory (BFI; John, Donahue, & Kentle, 1991), Narcissistic Personality Inventory, Revised Cheek and Buss Shyness Scale (Cheek, 1983) and a Facebook usage questionnaire. Thus far, the psychology of Facebook has been limited to students only.

Results from this study showed that Facebook users are more likely to be extraverted and narcissistic, however less conscientious and socially lonely than non-users. Facebook non-users were found to be more conscientious and socially lonely than users. Neuroticism, loneliness, shyness and narcissism were show to vary as certain use and features of Facebook would interest or disinterest these personalities. Since this study is new and there is a lack of psychological theory relating to its use, further development regarding the implications and gratifications are needed. One of Ryan et all (2011) key findings in this research, however, found that the tendency for neurotic and lonely individuals spend longer amounts of time on Facebook per day than non-lonely users. For lonely people in particular, it appears that they are mainly using Facebook as a distraction, instead of providing active social contributions.

Assessing the data from the above table, a pattern can be interpreted to demonstrate whichever gender has neuroticism in their personality, can be seen to spend a larger amount time on Facebook per day than an extraversion individual. In both genders’ cases, lower extraversion indicates a longer time on Facebook per day compared to having high extraversion in their personality. In Addition, having low neuroticism results in a shorter time spent on Facebook compared to having higher neuroticism in their personality. Overall, it can be concluded that within their respected personality, females tend to spend a longer time on Facebook compared to males per day. Assumptions can be drawn, however will be needed to be strengthened by supported testing.


Amachai-Hamburger., & Yair Vinitsky, G. (2010). Social network use and personality. Computers in Human behaviour. 26, 1289-1295. doi 10.1016/2010.03.018

Ross, C., Orr, E.S., Mia Sisic, B.A., Arsenault, J.M., Simmering, M.G., & Orr, R.R. (2009). Personality and motivations associated with facebook use. Computers in Human Behaviour. 25, 578-586. doi 10.1016/2008.12.024

Ryan, T., & Xenos, S. (2011). Who uses facebook? An investigation into the relationship between the big five, shyness, narcissism, loneliness, and facebook usage. Computers in Human behaviour. 27, 1658-1664. doi 10.1016/2011.02.004

Back, M.D., Stopfer, J.M., Vazire, S., Gaddis, S., Schmukle, S.C., Egloff, B., Gosling, S.D., (2010). Facebook profiles reflect actual personality, not self-idealisation. Psychological science. 21, 372-374. doi 10.1177/0956797609360756

Findlay, B., (2009). How to write psychology research reports and essays. (Version 6). Pearson Education Australia.

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