My Status, Myself
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Status updates do more than tell your Facebook friends what’s on your mind. They can also tell researchers what kind of person you are.
By Chris Morris
While oversharing on Facebook is nothing new, we might be giving a lot more information than we realize in our posts. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania recently did a deep dive into Facebook status updates and found that the social media site offers a new lens through which to analyze personalities. While some of their findings were “face valid” — i.e., people who live in the mountains talk about mountains — this large study did yield some new hypothesis and insights about men, women and certain personality types.
People who mention an assortment of social sports and life activities (such as basketball, snowboarding, church, meetings) tended to be the most well-balanced when it came to their feelings.
Japanese media (such as anime, pokemon, manga and Japanese emoticons: ˆ_ˆ) was an area of keen interest for these people.
People with emotional issues, perhaps not surprisingly, don’t hide it well, often talking of depression, anger and ratcheting up their foul language.
Men vs. Women
In addition, the study noted a few primary differences between men and women, which might confirm some long-held suspicions.
WHAT’S WRITTEN IN THE CLOUDS
Words and phrases are in the center; topics, represented as the 15 most prevalent words, surround the center cloud.
Men tend to be more self-involved. The use possessive phrases such as “my wife” and “my girlfriend,” whereas women simply say “husband” and “boyfriend.” Women are more likely to preface those terms with “her” or “amazing,” whereas men don’t talk much about others’ partners.
Men also are more likely to be foul-mouthed. “f**k” and “f**king” were two of the three most frequently used words, while women’s most used were “shopping,” “excited” and the heart emoticon <3.
Keys in the Clouds
To gather the data, researchers created word clouds from the updates, showing both the most frequently used terms as well as how they related to each other. And those clouds, they say, were the key to the findings.
“When I ask myself, ‘What’s it like to be an extrovert?’ ‘What’s it like to be a teenage girl?’ ‘What’s it like to be schizophrenic or neurotic?’ or ‘What’s it like to be 70 years old?’ these word clouds come much closer to the heart of the matter than do all the questionnaires in existence,” said Dr. Martin Seligman, director of the Penn Positive Psychology Center.
“This doesn’t guarantee that doing sports will make you less neurotic; it could be that neuroticism causes people to avoid sports,” said Lyle H. Ungar, a professor at the school’s computer and information science division. “But it does suggest that we should explore the possibility that neurotic individuals would become more emotionally stable if they played more sports.”While it’s too early to conclusively determine that changing one’s habits to match up with the Facebook study’s findings will alter their personality, researchers say it’s certainly worth exploring.
volunteers who made their updates available
total words, phrases and topics collected from that data
average words per status update
- Chris Morris, OZY Author Contact Chris Morris