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A new study has evaluated Facebook status updates and found that personality traits determine the topics written about in status updates.

With over 1.4 billion active users worldwide, Facebook offers the chance to stay connected to friends near and far. Facebook status updates allow users to share information regarding a wide range of topics and activities, and a new study has investigated the correlation between types of status updates and particular personality traits.

The study identified five broad topics of status updates:

  • Social activities & everyday life
  • Intellectual pursuits
  • Accomplishments,
  • Diet & exercise
  • Relationships

Based on the ‘Big Five’ personality traits, the authors of the study made several hypotheses regarding topics that people with those personality traits would most likely post about on Facebook. Participants for the study included 555 Facebook users within the United States. Questionnaires were then filled out to determine personality traits of the participants.

The study revealed that there was an association between being an extravert and frequently updating status with posts about social activities and daily life. For this group of people, Facebook was found to be a means of communication and social engagement. The study also found that neuroticism was associated with use of Facebook for validation. The personality trait, openness, was found to be associated with status updates about intellectual topics, and with use of Facebook for informational purposes. For example, updates regarding current events, politics, or research.

In addition, the results of the study revealed that those who had lower self-esteem typically tended to share status updates about their romantic partner. The authors suggest that the motives for this may include a way to ‘lay claim’ to a relationship when they may feel threatened. A positive association was found between narcissism and updates regarding achievement, in addition to use of Facebook for self-validation, which the authors suggest is consistent with boasting and attention seeking behaviour commonly exhibited by narcissists. The authors suggest that the results of the study are useful in understanding social interaction, in addition to improvement of people’s awareness of how they are perceived by friends.


Marshall, TC, Lefringhausen, K, Ferenczi, N. “The Big Five, self-esteem, and narcissism as predictors of the topics people write about in Facebook status updates” Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 85, October 2015, Pages 35–40.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net





Written by Deborah Tallarigo, PhD

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