Are your friends insecure or narcissistic? You can tell a lot from their Facebook statuses, according to a new study. Katie Wright examines the evidence
When scrolling through your Facebook feed, what are the status updates most likely to send you into a rage? If sickening, lovey-dovey declarations or smug, look-how-many-miles-I-ran-today pronouncements are up there, you’re going to like this.
A new paper from Brunel University London has revealed some fascinating findings about those supposedly self-satisfied Facebookers.
Using a sample of 555 users in the US, the study measured what psychologists call the ‘Big Five’ personality traits (openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism) plus self-esteem and narcissism, then respondents were asked to report on how often they write about any of a number of topics in their status updates.
Unsurprisingly, extroverts were found to update their statuses more often, while people who scored highly on openness (that is, being curious and open to new ideas and experiences) were more likely to use the platform to share intellectual content like news articles or their political views.
But where it got really interesting was with the results for the other measures.
Narcissists were more likely to post about their achievements or their diet and exercise habits for, the researchers say, “attention-seeking and validation”.
Similarly, those who were lower in self-esteem wrote updates about their significant other more frequently; not for attention, but as a way of “laying claim to their relationship when it feels threatened”. Previous research has shown that people with low self-esteem tend to be scared that, to put it bluntly, they’re going to get dumped.
On top of that, the narcissists reported (and we’ll have to take their word for it) that they garnered more ‘likes’ and comments, meaning their public posturing was “positively reinforced by the attention and validation they crave”.
So what can we conclude from the study to help maintain our own social media sanity?
Firstly, it’s probably advisable to hide that girl from your Facebook feed who keeps sharing gym selfies and bragging about the 20th ballet barre class she’s been to that week – and definitely don’t like said statuses, because she’s a self-absorbed moron and you’re only encouraging her.
But maybe don’t be so hasty with that guy who constantly writes eye-rollingly soppy odes to his beloved ‘babydoll’, punctuated with that most excruciating of all hashtags, #blessed – because, if anything, he needs your sympathy.