The meteoric rise of the world’s most popular social-media site suggests that Facebook fulfills a deep human need for connection. But we also know that people use Facebook in very different ways and for very different purposes. You're probably familiar with: the Facebook exhibitionist, the game player, the confessor, the envier, the narcissist, and the stalker, to name just a few. These broad Facebook personality patterns conceal far more subtle variations in the benefits that users seek from this form of social media, the challenges they encounter, and the actual rewards they derive from their interactions on the site.
Reviewing the available empirical literature—including more than 100 recently published journal articles on Facebook users—University of London psychologist Beth Anderson and her collaborators (2012) categorized the findings to discern the top psychological themes. Using their findings as a background, I’ve devised this 20-item quiz to help reveal your own Facebook personality.
What to do: Give each item a rating of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning disagree strongly, 5 meaning agree strongly, etc. After completing the items, refer to the sections that follow, on different types of Facebook personalities. If you gave your highest scores to the items under one category, it suggests that this is your predominant Facebook personality. (Note: This quiz hasn’t been field tested, so the scores reflect only an approximation of what your Facebook use tells you.)
- I am a sociable person.
- The tasks I most prefer doing for enjoyment are ones that don’t involve much mental effort.
- I already have many real-life friends, and just see Facebook as a way to stay in touch with a wider circle than I can see in person.
- Facebook use is an important part of my overall sense of who I am as a person.
- If I’m not on Facebook for more than a few hours, I feel anxious and even distressed.
- I feel as though I am a very disciplined and self-controlled person who can be counted to finish what I start.
- My electronic devices (smartphones, computers, tablets) are almost a part of my identity.
- I think about what my status updates on Facebook say about me as a person.
- It’s important for me to find out about the Facebook status of my friends.
- I’m a “fan” of or have “liked” quite a few different brand names, products, or online stores.
- I belong to a large number of Facebook groups and regularly check on their activities.
- Facebook games are a constant diversion for me; in fact, I play more often than I would like to.
- When I post on Facebook, I am not entirely truthful about how I’m feeling and what I’m doing.
- My Facebook profile is something I’ve given careful thought to editing.
- The privacy settings I’ve chosen on Facebook are pretty liberal; many people can easily find me.
- I regularly change my profile picture.
- Facebook interactions bring me closer to my friends and family.
- I try to maintain contact with my ex (or exes) and regularly check their updates.
- While at social or family gatherings, I secretly check the statuses of people who aren’t there.
- I’ve had to close down my Facebook account or change my name to cover up my past posts.
What Your Score Tells You
Your answers should place you in one of the categories described below.
You have typical Facebook personality traits.
The studies of personality traits and Facebook use that Anderson and her collaborators reviewed suggest that, as you might expect, Facebook users tend to be higher in extraversion or sociability (#1). There weren’t too many specific personality traits associated with heavy Facebook use other than extraversion, but the studies suggest that Facebook users are low on what’s called “Need for Cognition,” which is the tendency to be curious and seek out brain teasers (#2). Facebook users also tend to be low in the personality trait called Conscientiousness (#6). Therefore, if you’re sociable, prefer socializing to working, and low in Need for Cognition, you’re very much like the typical Facebook user.
Facebook is a part of your identity.
Just like the social identities we construct in face-to-face relationships, Facebook identities reflect the view we want to project to others. Therefore, if you put Facebook use high on your list of personal attributes (#4) and feel personally connected to the devices that connect you to Facebook (#7), then there’s a good chance that you’ve incorporated who you are on Facebook into your overall sense of who you are as a person. Putting effort into the persona that you project on Facebook (i.e. your public face) further adds to the identity component of your social media self. So if you consciously control your status updates (#8), present lies or distortions (#13), edit your profile (#14) and change your picture (#16), then you’re using Facebook to help define yourself to the people in your social world and, to a large extent, yourself.
You use Facebook to maintain positive connections with people you care about.
There’s a belief that people use Facebook to make up for their lack of social connections in their real (vs. virtual) lives. However, Anderson and her colleagues found strong evidence for a “rich get richer” rather than “poor get richer” pattern of Facebook use. The people most likely to use Facebook already have a large number of friends (#3), and it would therefore make sense that they check on their Facebook statuses to see how they’re doing (#17).
You’re a Facebook addict.
Using Facebook to maintain close ties is one thing, but being overly in need of Facebook diversions can signify you’re becoming hooked. Some of the studies that the Anderson, et al. article cited suggest that you might be in this category if you’re constantly checking your Facebook page (#5), even to the point of interacting with Facebook instead of the people you’re with at the moment (#19). To these, I would add being unable to stay off of Facebook games (#12), and joining multiple groups (#11). Anderson and her colleagues also discuss the ways that advertisers are using Facebook to engage consumers (#10). Your Facebook use can grow exponentially the more time you spend on games, following brands or stores, and in groups which, unlike status updates, aren’t as limited by your number of friends or your sense of propriety in monitoring your numbers of posts.
You’re at risk of becoming a pathological Facebook user.
If you’re not worried about your privacy settings now (#15) or, conversely, worry now about having overshared in the past (#20), you might fall into the category of being a Facebook exhibitionist. Everyone’s overshared at one time or another and regretted having spilled out too many personal details for all the world to see. However, if you’re constantly falling into this pattern or, worse, don’t worry about what you reveal to others, you might benefit from thinking about the risks that you put yourself in by your Facebook use. Telling everyone in your circle how annoyed you are at your kids/parents/spouse/boss, etc. can only come back to haunt you. Similarly, following the wrong people can make you depressed and angry. Using Facebook to stalk exes, for example, only fuels your inner fires of jealousy, anger, and resentment. At this point, you might need to take a break from Facebook while you evaluate its role in your life.
There can be many benefits to using Facebook, especially when you use it as intended—as an adjunct to your social and even intellectual life. Understanding how your patterns of use correspond to those of people studied in the literature can help you get the most out of not only social media, but your social relationships in general.
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Copyright Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D. 2014
Anderson, B., Fagan, P., Woodnutt, T., & Chamorro-Premuzic, T. (2012). Facebook psychology: Popular questions answered by research. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 1, 23-37. doi: 10.1037/a0026452