A new study from Brunel University in London claims that people who post Facebook status updates about their romantic partners are more likely to have low self-esteem, while those who write about their diet, exercise rituals and accomplishments are more likely to be narcissists.
The study’s data was collected from 555 Facebook users via online surveys that examined the “Big Five” — which includes extroversion, neuroticism, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness — along with self-esteem and narcissism.
Tara Marshall, the lead author of the study, said
“It might come as little surprise that Facebook status updates reflect people’s personality traits. However, it is important to understand why people write about certain topics on Facebook.”
According to the study, narcissists were most likely to write about their achievements in a bid for validation from their Facebook friends. When their posts received comments or were “liked,” their self-promotion was reinforced, leading them to update their statuses with more frequency. Marshall said:
“People who receive more likes and comments tend to experience the benefits of social inclusion, whereas those who receive none feel ostracized.”
But those likes and comments on a narcissist’s post may not be a clear-cut validation of support, according to Marshall. She said:
“Although our results suggest that narcissists’ bragging pays off because they receive more likes and comments to their status updates, it could be that their Facebook friends politely offer support while secretly disliking such egotistical displays.”
Meanwhile, Facebook users who use the site to talk about their romantic partners are more likely to have low self-esteem. Their posts, Marshall argues, are a way to boost their self-worth and to demonstrate to others that their relationship ties are strong when they are, in fact, not. These users often received few or no “likes” and comments because their personal relationship disclosures were perceived by others as less likable and laden with too much shared information.
The study’s researchers argue that more studies on Facebook status updates and how people respond to them need to be conducted. Marshall said:
“Greater awareness of how one’s status updates might be perceived by friends could help people to avoid topics that annoy more than they entertain.”