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You motherf$%&*#rs are all on notice
December 3, 2009 12:36 PM   Subscribe

Facebook Profiles Capture True Personality Online social networks such as Facebook are being used to express and communicate real personality, instead of an idealized virtual identity, according to new research from psychologist Sam Gosling at The University of Texas at Austin.

Findings will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. Researchers include: Gosling and Sam Gaddis (The University of Texas at Austin), Mitja Back, Juliane Stopfer and Boris Egloff (Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz, Germany), Simine Vazire (Washington University in St. Louis), and Stefan Schmukle (Westfälische Wilhelms-University Münster, Germany).
posted by psmealey (51 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

 
Cam whores and e-thugs? On my social networking site?

It's less likely than you think.
posted by The Lurkers Support Me in Email at 12:40 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Online social networks such as Facebook are being used to express and communicate real personality

And real feelings towards others. There's no social signal quite as blunt as having someone remove you from his or her friends list, or decline to be your friend in the first place.
posted by orange swan at 12:40 PM on December 3, 2009 [9 favorites]


I was struck by this: Accuracy was strongest for extraversion - paralleling results of face-to-face encounters - and lowest for neuroticism. Because neuroticism is a pretty vital bit of data about personality.
posted by bearwife at 12:42 PM on December 3, 2009


Translation: The internet, created by nerds for nerds, has been taken over by the jocks and the Heathers.

Congratulations, World wide Web, after almost 18 years and trillions of pages, you've become high school.
posted by Pastabagel at 12:46 PM on December 3, 2009 [19 favorites]


If by "jocks and heathers" you mean "almost every person with an internet connection and basic computer literacy" then, yes, yes indeed.

Then again maybe your comment has sarcasm that I'm missing. Perhaps the comment thread is still far behind the social networking profile in communicating real-life data.
posted by codacorolla at 12:55 PM on December 3, 2009 [7 favorites]


Yes, nothing expresses genuine feelings like sending someone a tractor in Farmville.

What are these guys smoking? My mom and mother-in-law are on Facebook. Do you think I post half the pictures and comments I would like to post for my old college friends to see?
posted by Pollomacho at 12:58 PM on December 3, 2009


This can't be true. If anything, given what I've seen, it's the opposite: the "friends" on my contacts list who constantly post about how amazing everything is, all the accolades and admiration they've received, that awesome souffle they made, the 5 books they read that weekend....are pretty much the most miserable of the bunch.

For many people (at least in the 25-34 age bracket), Facebooking is part self-marketing, part competitive sport.
posted by availablelight at 1:02 PM on December 3, 2009 [7 favorites]


There is no such thing as "personality" its a construct.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:06 PM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Know any general contractors that can 'construct' me a new one?
posted by spicynuts at 1:08 PM on December 3, 2009


There is no such thing as "personality" its a construct.

So are buildings and cheese, but it's still something that has a a general and identifiable unique trend.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:10 PM on December 3, 2009 [4 favorites]


"I was surprised by the findings because the widely held assumption is that people are using their profiles to promote an enhanced impression of themselves," says Gosling of the more than 700 million people worldwide who have online profiles. "In fact, our findings suggest that online social networking profiles convey rather accurate images of the profile owners, either because people aren't trying to look good or because they are trying and failing to pull it off.

"These findings suggest that online social networks are not so much about providing positive spin for the profile owners," he adds, "but are instead just another medium for engaging in genuine social interactions, much like the telephone."


Got to go--I've got another call.
posted by box at 1:10 PM on December 3, 2009


Well... from the article:
Gosling and a team of researchers collected 236 profiles of college-aged people from the United States (Facebook) and Germany (StudiVZ, SchuelerVZ). The researchers used questionnaires to assess the profile owners' actual personality characteristics as well as their ideal-personality traits (how they wished to be). The personality traits included: extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness.

In the study, observers rated the profiles of people they did not know. These ratings were then compared to the profile owners' actual personality and their ideal-personality. Personality impressions based on online social network profiles were accurate and were not affected by profile owners' self-idealization.
So this is about personality, not happiness. These people may be miserable, but they may also be very boastful and outgoing in real life (the article mentions that the analysis works best for extraversion). I guess that what it's saying is that through the filter of an online profile not much is lost between how you appear to others in real life and how your appear to others through your digital self. Plus, it's not what the real life friends of these people thought of them - it's the snap impression of strangers. Meaning that, in terms of first impressions, you can't juke reality through social networking.

I'd like to see more about the study. The article in the OP is interesting, but not incredibly deep.
posted by codacorolla at 1:10 PM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


The people I find annoying in real life are also annoying on Facebook. So I guess this works.
posted by naju at 1:14 PM on December 3, 2009


I deleted my Facebook profile. Does that mean I can now become an American Idol contestant?
A gameshow host?
Insurance salesman?

posted by Hardcore Poser at 1:15 PM on December 3, 2009


I think this is true of my interaction on Facebook. Everyone I am friends with knows me in real life, and at least half of them have known me more than 20 years. Really no point in trying to be something that I'm not.

(On the other hand, I think I'm pretty straightforward here, too, and I have no idea who you clowns are.)
posted by Pater Aletheias at 1:16 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Dangit, wrong link. Here is Simon Cowell accusing Idol contestants of having no personality.

And here are the remains of my attempted joke:
|
V
...
posted by Hardcore Poser at 1:19 PM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


It's basically saying what people already know, which is that people use facebook as if it was a private conversation even though it's public. Cept, you know, all scientific like, which is cool.
posted by The Devil Tesla at 1:20 PM on December 3, 2009


I don't think self-curating is anything new, but the means by which we can self-curate have changed a lot.
posted by everichon at 1:23 PM on December 3, 2009


Cept, you know, all social-scientific like

FTFY
posted by killdevil at 1:24 PM on December 3, 2009


In fact, our findings suggest that online social networking profiles convey rather accurate images of the profile owners, either because people aren't trying to look good or because they are trying and failing to pull it off.

I was skeptical of this, and I suppose I still am overall, but personally I think it's true that the ways in which people try to look good and fail are generally a good indicator of their personality.
posted by Nattie at 1:36 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Know any general contractors that can 'construct' me a new one?

Ridiculously priced Facebook profile 'image consulting' service popping up in 3... 2... 1...
posted by Avelwood at 1:38 PM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


So this is about personality, not happiness. These people may be miserable, but they may also be very boastful and outgoing in real life (the article mentions that the analysis works best for extraversion).

FWIW, the worst offenders on my live feed also brag online about how happy they are and grateful for a life "beyond their wildest dreams" (because happiness is a social envy item as well)...and are the same people I've gotten sobbing phone calls from on a weekly basis in many cases.
posted by availablelight at 1:38 PM on December 3, 2009


Hey, Simine Vazire is dating a friend of mine!

Other than that, I've got nothing.
posted by slogger at 1:39 PM on December 3, 2009


I was surprised by the findings because the widely held assumption is that people are using their profiles to promote an enhanced impression of themselves

People who fancy themselves online "thinkers" are obsessed -- obsessed! -- with the concept about how the online world is all about adopted personalities and the potential for people to create online personas and the like. Sometimes it seems it is all they talk about. This is why they're surprised that people are using facebook to be who they are: because it basically takes the last 15 years of their techno-philosophizing and lays waste to it. The online world did not become one of people adopting online masks and avatars allowing themselves to embody the "false face" of so many lit-crit essays. The online world became a tool for people to be who they are and more easily and widely display themselves.
posted by deanc at 1:43 PM on December 3, 2009 [18 favorites]


"These findings suggest that online social networks are not so much about providing positive spin for the profile owners," he adds, "but are instead just another medium for engaging in genuine social interactions, much like the telephone."

and the should add "while ignoring in-person communication with people in the same room because they're too busy engaging in genuine social interactions with people virtually."

My husband is addicted to the stupid thing. From the time I come home to the time we go to bed, he's on there talking with people. I guess they're way more interesting than our 11 month old son.

I guess I was "lucky" to get married before FB. These people are not so lucky.

Put down the FB and live life rather than going "wait, I gotta tell my 687 friends about this first."
posted by stormpooper at 1:52 PM on December 3, 2009 [2 favorites]


Gosling and a team of researchers collected 236 profiles of college-aged people

236 huh? That sure sounds like a representative sample....
posted by Big_B at 1:59 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Mine says: "I don't really care about facebook"
posted by delmoi at 1:59 PM on December 3, 2009


My friends who lead the most interesting lives are on Facebook the least.
posted by Locative at 2:00 PM on December 3, 2009


Congratulations, World wide Web, after almost 18 years and trillions of pages, you've become high school.

Not just "High School" but in many cases literally high school, as in, everyone I went to highschool with is on facebook now.

Translation: The internet, created by nerds for nerds, has been taken over by the jocks and the Heathers.

The "Internet" was created by nerds for nerds. "Web 2.0" was created by nerds for money.
posted by delmoi at 2:04 PM on December 3, 2009 [4 favorites]


Bah. Abstractions are not "real." All modes of personality are performances. The best they can say is something like: People tend not to perform in a mode unique to Facebook, and tend to perform the same personality as the one they perform in non-online, non-professional social interactions.

BUT: I don't believe it. I am very careful about my Facebook, and I use my Twitter as a conscious expression of my Id. So, bah.
posted by eustacescrubb at 2:22 PM on December 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


Translation: The internet, created by nerds for nerds, has been taken over by the jocks and the Heathers.

Congratulations, World wide Web, after almost 18 years and trillions of pages, you've become high school.


Pfft, that happened back in the early 90s, when aol exploded and suddenly everybody was using chat rooms to hook up with each other, and all the innocent chatty nerds collectively went "whut"
posted by davejay at 2:34 PM on December 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


Those poor, innocent nerds.
posted by everichon at 2:39 PM on December 3, 2009


1) Create lame theory of personality and social interaction model
2) Tie theory into uber-popular social networking site
3) Profit
posted by doctor_negative at 2:41 PM on December 3, 2009


236 huh? That sure sounds like a representative sample....

Yeah, and how about those mathematicians, fitting circles to only three points. Don't they realize that circles contain uncountably many points? How are three representative at all?
posted by Pyry at 2:42 PM on December 3, 2009 [3 favorites]


Yeah, neuroticism is a pretty important part of personality.

Extroversion, well duh.

My sister the super-extrovert has 310 friends, and has been tagged in approximately 1,000 photos.

My moderately introverted sister-in-law has 160 friends but has only been tagged in 21 photos.

Only the most die-hard faker could ever hope to fake 1,000 tagged pictures of themselves in mostly group settings.
posted by kathrineg at 2:47 PM on December 3, 2009


poor nerds my ass, those nerds were dirty as hell even pre-AOL
posted by kathrineg at 2:48 PM on December 3, 2009


Yep, with every older relative who seeks me out and adds me to Facebook, it becomes less a place where I broadcast my "real" self (intensely cynical, highly profane), and more like an online family and friends gathering where I'm HIGHLY filtered.
posted by autodidact at 2:58 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


What's with all the "that can't possibly be true!" comments? From the looks of it it's pretty legitimate. Just because a study doesn't line up with your personal expectations doesn't mean it's wrong - that's why we study things scientifically in the first place.

Granted, we'll see what happens when it's published. As it stands it's probably too early for "this is so game changing I'm going to rewrite my textbooks" but also too early for "it's totes wrong because of {x personal experience}."

Personally, I don't find this too surprising. What they said about the ways in which people try to look better but fail being telling rings as true to me. If someone constantly brags about their relationship on their status, I'd guess that they're insecure (or in a very new relationship) rather than "wow they must have a love that lasts ages."
posted by Solon and Thanks at 3:23 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Geez. I was pretty nerdy myself in high school, but it was a long time ago. That shit is like The Sopranos: it's over.

I really don't think everyone who was ever on the football team deserves to be forcibly removed from the internet. The whole counter-exclusion thing is the least appealing aspect of stereotypical "geek culture." Sure, the "jocks and Heathers" didn't want you at their party, but you know what? THEY WERE SIXTEEN. What's your excuse?

Also, I did not know the US Military were "nerds."
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:47 PM on December 3, 2009 [4 favorites]


And yeah, common sense tells me this study is absolutely correct. Unless you're dealing with professional actors or psychopaths, people's actions and words tend reflect their personality, regardless of the venue.
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:50 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wait, am I missing something? What on earth would make questionnaires, voluntarily filled out by voluntary participants, accurate gauges of personality? Wouldn't personal interviews be, you know, much more accurate and useful? Facebook is LIKE a very oblique voluntary personality questionnaire already.

Then again, I don't know anything about the social sciences.
posted by munyeca at 4:13 PM on December 3, 2009


I was struck by this: Accuracy was strongest for extraversion - paralleling results of face-to-face encounters - and lowest for neuroticism. Because neuroticism is a pretty vital bit of data about personality.

Neuroticism may be an important component of personality, but it is one that is much more difficult to assess than extraversion. It makes perfect sense that social networking sites (which seem to me specifically designed to elicit extraversion, at least insofar as profile construction is concerned) can readily index extraversion. Neuroticism, on the other hand, is not something that can be so readily gleaned from the choices one makes in participating in social networking.

Facebook has actually garnered a lot of interest among social psychologists. The study (discussed here in Huffington Post or NYT on the purported "Gross National Happiness Index" as measured by the incidence of positive and negative emotion words in Facebook posts was actually conducted by a grad student in my program.

I really hope to use participation on social networking sites to study the neural correlates of social interaction. It is incredibly difficult to construct experiments on social interaction with real world salience inside the confines of an fMRI scanner. However, it would be easy to show folks different Facebook pages. With magnet safe keyboards, they could even potentially interact on the site while we scan their brains. I think it would allow us to take social neuroscience to a whole new level, and I'm excited to try to figure out how to do so.
posted by solipsophistocracy at 4:54 PM on December 3, 2009


My Facebook profile is nothing but a name. I only use it so I can see pictures of my nieces and nephews.

This means I am an International Man Of Mystery and thus Sexy as Fuck.
posted by jonmc at 4:57 PM on December 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


I gave up on Facebook quizzes when I took the 'What Muppet Are You?' quiz and the answer came back as 'Animal'. Flattering, yes, but I'm more of a Lew Zealand feller, thank you.
posted by spoobnooble at 7:14 PM on December 3, 2009


Online social networks such as Facebook are being used to express and communicate real personality, instead of an idealized virtual identity

I'm pretty open and genuine on Facebook. At the same time, I don't often talk about sadness or anger or other negative feelings that are very much a part of my inner life.

Am I building an idealized virtual identity?

Or just filtering a little bit to present myself in a slightly better light?
posted by jason's_planet at 8:44 PM on December 3, 2009


I have a seperate pseudonymous facebook for a few long-time friends, and another one for my in-laws, to completely quarantine them from my out-laws.
posted by kathrineg at 9:02 PM on December 3, 2009


I think if and how you filter your personality for older or younger relatives, that is also a part of your character. It says something about who you are and how you interact with the world. So in a way it could even make your facebook persona more accurate than one that is limited to only a very select few.
posted by Salamandrous at 4:45 AM on December 4, 2009


^ that's a bit of a Catch-22. My personality is not "one who changes face for different contexts". Everyone does that. It's basic Gladwell.
posted by autodidact at 7:14 AM on December 4, 2009


There is no such thing as "personality" its a construct.

That doesn't follow.
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:02 AM on December 4, 2009


autodidact: "^ that's a bit of a Catch-22. My personality is not "one who changes face for different contexts". Everyone does that. It's basic Gladwell."

If you're talking about Malcolm Gladwell, the idea predates him. It's basic social/personality psychology.

But what do I know, there is so much to learn about people that it's mindblowing.
posted by kathrineg at 10:35 AM on December 4, 2009


Also, I did not know the US Military were "nerds."

There were many groups who contributed to the development of the internet, including the U.S. military. The military scientists and technicians weren't soldiers straight out of G.I. Joe, though. They were as nerdy as nerds get. They were nerds before being a nerd became (sort of) cool.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 12:28 PM on December 4, 2009


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