Your Facebook status updates say more about your personality than you think. 

 According to a recent study published at PLOS ONE, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania think they’ve found a way to make predictions about your personality based on your Facebook status updates.

The scientists, headed by H. Andrew Schwartz, examined the  language used on 75,000 profiles and discovered differences varying by age, gender, and even personality, which allowed them to make predictions about the profile user.

The group based their studies on personality on the popular Five Factor Model theory, which states human personality traits fall into five different core dimensions:

  1. Openness (having an active imagination, intellectual curiosity, artistic sensitivity)
  2. Conscientiousness (0rganized, responsible, achievement-oriented)
  3. Extraversion (outgoing, assertive, and talkative)
  4. Agreeableness (helpful, cooperative, trusting, kind)
  5. Neuroticism (anxious, depressed, envious)

Additionally, the study took a look at the words we use on social media in connection with human psychology. While this relationship has been studied for a long time, social media itself has changed how we can approach research. The growth of online activity and social media networks now allows access to tons of language sources, most of it personal.

The MIT Technology Review reported this was the largest study that has ever been conducted, and because of its size, the researchers were able to approach the study by letting the words and phrases highlight what was most important. This method allowed for more discovery, as previous approaches analyzed data based on pre-determined lists of related words.

They found that they were able to predict the user’s gender accurately 92% of the time and could guess the user’s age more than 50% of the time.

Other big takeaways include:

  • Extroverts are more likely than introverts to use vocabulary that reflects social activity like “party”
  • Neurotics tend to use words like “depressed”
  • Introverts were more likely to use shorthand like “2day”
  • Less neurotic people often talked about social events

A similar study from a team of Asian researchers, experimented with how social media behavior can offer us a glimpse into someone’s personality. Using the Big Five Inventory, a test of the five core personality traits developed at Berkeley in the 1990s, they cross-referenced the results with a content analysis of their behavior on RenRen (a Chinese competitor to Facebook).

While this study was significantly smaller, only covering 200 Chinese students, their findings suggest the same as the PLOS ONE report: personality can be reflected on social media.

Though this kind of work is still in its infancy, the connection itself is fascinating…or frightening, depending on how you look at it. If our personalities can be somehow measured on social media, the implication is that we can be measured based on our behavior on the internet. 

There are limitless, and practically uncontrollable, possibilities for marketers, employers, and media providers to have access to who we are as people – our tastes, preferences, our identities.

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