Can Personality Explain Why Some People Use Social Network Sites More Than Others?

Facebook is one of many social network sites (SNS) where people present themselves in certain ways and maintain their relationships, but what does research say about the characteristics of individuals who use SNSs more than others? Do they differ on personality characteristics? In fact, evidence shows that this might be the case.

Earlier research has focused on the personality characteristics of The Big Five, but only vague and inconsistent results have been found, besides the characteristic of extraversion which has shown to consistenly influence the usage of SNS. As a result, people who score high on extraversion are more likely to use SNSs.

A review by Utz and colleagues (2012) examined how the need for popularity, among other factors, affects the way we use SNSs. Some studies have found that self-esteem is related to the frequency of login, time spent per login, and self-promotion through profile pictures.

There is a problem with using self-esteem as a predictor because it might be both a cause and a consequence of SNS use. Narcissism has been found to correlated with SNS activity and self-promotion.

The need to belong seems to be positively correlated with the attitudes towards SNSs. Feeling a greater need to belong might therefore increase SNS use. Among the factors mentioned, extraversion is found to be the most consistent predictor, and hereafter self-esteem, narcissism, and the need to belong (4) are relatively solid predictors.

The same predictors as mentioned earlier seem to be the strongest of SNS use, but new research by Utz and colleagues (2012) has found the need for popularity factor to be the strongest predictor among them.

The need of popularity factor is constituted of our motivation to appear popular, and indeed it is related to narcissism, but the need for popularity does not imply the feeling of superiority like narcissism does. 

SNSs are the ideal way of expressing one’s need to be popular because of the selective self-presentation that you are able to make via status updates etc.

Secondly, you will reach out to hundreds of people in just one status update. At last, people who score high on the need for popularity, will accordingly spend more time on self-centered behaviours, such as the optimization of one’s online self-representation.

Image: Ben Lawson