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How Does the Social Media Influence Our Personality?

How Does Social Media Influence Our Personality?

Psychologists have found that the use of online social networking sites like Facebook can both shape and reflect our personalities. One study of adolescents in China aged 13 to 18 found that excessive time spent using the Internet resulted in significant levels of anxiety and depression when compared to teenagers who spent considerably less time online (Lam & Peng, 2010). Other research found that high levels of social media use can reduce psychological well-being (how happy we feel) and decrease the quality of relationships with friends and romantic partners (Blais, Craig, Pepler, & Connolly, 2008; Huang, 2010a; Kross et al., 2013).

An online survey of college students in the United States showed that those who spent time talking with their parents on the telephone had more satisfying personal and supportive relationships with them than students who kept in touch with parents through social networking sites. In addition, college students who communicated with their parents on social networking sites reported greater loneliness, anxiety, and conflict in their relationships with their parents (Gentzler, Oberhauser, Westerman, & Nadorff, 2011).

 Studies conducted in such diverse countries as the Netherlands, Serbia, Hong Kong and Korea have demonstrated that those who reported excessive use of social media tend to be more lonely, introverted, and low in self-esteem than those who use it less (Baek, Bae, & Jang, 2013; Milosevic-Dordevic & Zezelj, 2013; Muusses, Finkenauer, Kerkhof, & Billedo, 2014; Yao & Zhong, 2014). Spending too much time online can also lead to addiction, which can be just as obsessive and excessive as addiction to alcohol, drugs, or gambling. Excessive online use has also been shown to change portions of the brain that are linked to depression and increased irritability (Mosher, 2011)

How Does Our Personality Influence Our Use of Social Media?

In addition to affecting our personalities, social networking sites can also reflect them. Studies in both Eastern and Western cultures found that those who were more extraverted and narcissistic (who had an inflated, unrealistic self-concept) were much more likely to use Facebook than those who did not score high on those personality characteristics. The more narcissistic teenagers were also more likely to update their Facebook status more frequently (Kuo & Tang, 2014; Michikyan, Subrahmanyam, & Dennis, 2014; Ong et al., 2011; Panek, Nardis, & Konrath, 2014; Winter et al., 2014).

Other studies suggest that those who report high use of social networking sites tend to be more extraverted, more open to new experiences, lower in self-esteem and socialization skills, less conscientious, and lower in emotional stability than those who report lower levels of usage (Blackhart, Ginette, Fitzpatrick, & Williamson, 2014; Correa, Hinsley, & de Zuniga, 2010; Mehdizadeh, 2010; Papastylianou, 2013; Ross, Orr, Sisic, Arseneault, Simmering, & Orr, 2009; Weiss, 2014; Wilson, Fornasier, & White, 2010)

Personality differences among cell phone users have also been found. Research involving teenagers and adults in Australia found that extraverts and those with a strong sense of self-identity spent much more time making calls and changing their ring tones and wallpaper than those scoring lower on these personality characteristics. The studies also found that those who were more neurotic and less conscientious and shy spent more time texting on their phones than those who were less neurotic and more conscientious (Bardi & Brady, 2010; Butt & Phillips, 2008; Walsh, White, Cox, & Young, 2011).

Finally, what about the personalities of people who engage in Internet trolling— deliberately hurting, harassing, and upsetting others by posting hateful, inflammatory, and derogatory comments about them. What are they like? The evidence shows that trolls are mostly male with an average age of 29, who, as you might expect, scores high in sadism. They take pleasure in degrading others. It makes them feel good (Buckels, Trapnell, & Paulhus, 2014; Lewis, 2014

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