Career Testing
Career Testing
Career Testing
WEB & TECH / FEB. 24, 2015
version 3, draft 3

Could Facebook Be Giving Away More Than We Think?

A few weeks ago I read about a study that claimed an algorithm could detect your personality more effectively than your friends could. The researchers fed the computer information from your Facebook account and could predict with reasonable (i.e., better than your friends) accuracy how you were really feeling.

Of course, that isn’t always a good thing.  A recent study suggests that the heaviest users of Facebook tend to be those who are most insecure, with the social network being used as a sort of comfort blanket to soothe their aching ego.

The paper suggests that the most active users are regularly posting  on their walls, commenting on the status of others, intensively liking things, all in the hope of grabbing attention from those in their network.

A pool of some 600 or so people of all ages were surveyed to determine both their relationship status and their Facebook activity. The results reveal that there are typically two core types of Facebook user:

  1. Those who have high attachment anxiety
  2. Those who are highly extroverted

The first type tend to have concerns that they’re not loved by those around them.  They tend to worry about being rejected or abandoned, and, therefore, use Facebook to secure feedback that they’re still wanted by others.

This group usually require a lot of reassurance and can be very sensitive to the opinions of other people. With over 1.2 billion users, Facebook, provides a large community of people they can turn to for positive reinforcement.

"Compared to more secure people, those higher in attachment anxiety are more feedback sensitive," the authors say. "They report feeling much better about themselves when they get a lot of comments, likes and other feedback on their posts and worse about themselves when their Facebook activity generates little attention."

The data suggests that the sensitivity someone had to feedback correlated with their Facebook activity levels. Indeed, the results appeared to suggest that the Facebook strategy was working, as anxiety appeared to drop the more attention the person received on Facebook.

Facebook and Anxiety

Of course, the link between anxiety and social networking is not new, with previous studies highlighting the tendency for Facebook users to be quite neurotic and self-absorbed. The latest study is one of the first, however, to suggest the use of Facebook could be a coping mechanism for many anxious people.

"These studies are consistent with many people’s intuitions that some individuals use Facebook to fulfill emotional and relationship needs that are unmet in the ’real’ world," the researchers conclude.

"There is a robust debate playing out in psychological science and pop culture as to whether Facebook represents a healthy or unhealthy outlet for such needs. I think the jury’s still out on that, but this research suggests that personality is an important factor to consider when investigating the causes and consequences of people’s engagement with social media."

If the study has a grain of truth however and strong Facebook usage is indicative of either anxiety or extraversion, we might want to be careful about showing off either of those traits to potential employers. Could our excessive Facebook usage be giving the game away as to the kind of person we are? Could it cost you the job even if you don’t have drunken pictures on your profile? Your thoughts and comments below please...

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