Your personality (Facebook) profile

This column originally appeared in The Observer magazine/Guardian online

 How often do you post about each of the following topics on Facebook (or your social media of choice)?

 

Your social activities (e.g., nights out)            Never / Rarely / Sometimes / Often

Your everyday life                                          Never / Rarely / Sometimes / Often

Intellectual topics (e.g., science articles)          Never / Rarely / Sometimes / Often

Your partner                                                    Never / Rarely / Sometimes / Often

Your children                                                  Never / Rarely / Sometimes / Often

Your achievements, diets and exercise            Never / Rarely / Sometimes / Often

A 2015 study of 555 brave volunteers (conducted at London’s Brunel University) explored the relationship between people’s Facebook updates and various personality measures, as measured by a battery of standard tests. The results make for some interesting reading.

Unsurprisingly, people who often post about their social activities and everyday life tend to be extraverts. However, people who often post about intellectual topics do not – as you might expect – show a tendency for introversion. What they do show is the personality trait of “Openness to experience”, which reflects an interest in exploration more generally (e.g., travel, new experiences, even risky behaviour), not just that of the intellectual kind. People who often post about their partner tend to report low self-esteem, whilst those who often post about their children tend to score high on conscientiousness (i.e., they’re people who get things done). You will probably not be surprised to hear that those who often post about their achievements, diets and exercise show a tendency towards narcissism, but what is surprising is that these types of posts tend to get the most likes (at least according to the posters themselves), though maybe many of these likes are through gritted teeth.

A fully referenced version of this article is available at benambridge.com. Order Psy-Q by Ben Ambridge (Profile Books, £8.99) for £6.99 at bookshop.theguardian.com

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