Examining the Influence of Extraversion and Neuroticism on a Student’s Facebook Usage.

Submitted as a Psychology HAY100 Practical Report
Word Count: 1638
Author: Michael Cunningham
Year: 2011

Abstract

The aim of this study was to examine how the personality traits extraversion and neuroticism influenced Facebook usage of a student population. Three hundred and ninety six first year Psychology students from Swinburne University completed the Facebook Questionnaire and the Australian Personality Inventory. The hypothesis that individuals who scored high in neuroticism would spend more time on Facebook than those who scored low in neuroticism was partially supported. The second hypothesis that individuals who scored high in extraversion would have more Facebook friends and belong to more groups than those who scored low in extraversion was also supported with a strong correlation. The current study affirmed the results of previous research which suggests that the personality traits narcissism and extraversion do have a significant influence on students’ Facebook usage.  Future research should expand on the topic and examine more closely how personality influences the way students use Facebook.

Introduction

Communication has always been a high priority for students, which explains why social networking sites (SNS) such as Facebook have exploded in popularity. Facebook enables communication amongst a wide circle of contacts and has successfully fused several SNS components such as email, instant messaging, blogging and photo albums (Livingstone, 2008). Considering the enormous popularity of Facebook, it’s important to understand the extent to which personality influences Facebook usage. A large body of research has already been conducted on the relationship between personality and Facebook usage, most of which utilise the Five-Factor Model of personality (ie. Amichai-Hamburger & Vinitzky., 2010; Ross et al., 2009; Wilson et al., 2010).

Ross et al (2009) investigated how the Five-Factor Model of personality (FFM, Costa & Mcrae, 1992) influenced Facebook use among a sample of undergraduate Psychology students. The results of the study found that individuals with high levels of extraversion belonged to more Facebook groups than those with low levels of extraversion, however, there was no link found between high levels of extraversion and number of Facebook friends. The study also found no link between Neuroticism and the posting of pictures on Facebook or the use of private messaging. The results of the study found a link between Facebook use and personality, but failed to prove a strong correlation.

Amichai-Hamburger & Vinitzky (2010) conducted a partial replication of Ross et al’s (2009) study to further establish the relationship between FFM traits and Facebook use. The results concluded the opposite of Ross et al’s (2009) findings on both extraversion and neuroticism. Amichai-Hamburger & Vinitzky (2010) found that individuals with high levels of extraversion had more Facebook friends than those with low levels of extraversion, but didn’t belong to more groups. It was also found that individuals with high levels of neuroticism were more likely to post their photos on Facebook than those with low levels of neuroticism.

Wilson et al (2010) conducted a study to examine whether personality and self-esteem of students could predict levels of addiction to and time spent on SNS. The research used the FFM to explore the personality types associated with SNS use; it also took into account self-esteem and addiction which was not tested in previous research. The study found that individuals who scored high on extraversion spent more time using an SNS and were more likely to show signs of SNS addiction. While high levels of neuroticism was not associated with increased levels of SNS use or addictive tendencies.

The present study was designed to partially replicate previous research conducted by Ross et al (2009) and Amichai-Hamburger & Vinitzky (2010), by focusing on only two of the FFM personality traits (extraversion and neuroticism) and their relation to Facebook usage amongst a student population. It was hypothesised that students who scored high on the trait of extraversion would have more friends and belong to more groups than the students who scored low on extraversion. It was also hypothesised that students with high levels of neuroticism would spend more time using Facebook than the students with lower levels of neuroticism.

Results

To examine the extent to which extraversion and neuroticism influenced student’s Facebook usage, mean scores and percentages were taken from the results of the online Facebook and personality survey completed by the student sample. Differences between genders were not found, so the data was merged. The initial sample was 548 students but was cut down to 396 due to missing data. Table 1 shows the comparative mean scores and standard deviations of Facebook use amongst the students in the high and low extraversion and neuroticism groups, and the entire student sample. While Table 2 shows the percentage of student’s responses to the questions ‘What is your most preferred function/application on Facebook’ and ‘Why do you like Facebook’.

Table 1
Comparative Statistics for Facebook Usage

Facebook Usage

Statistics

Overall
(n=390)

Neuroticism

Extraversion

Low

High

Low

High

Time Spent Using Facebook (min)

M

65.72

59.13

82.38

67.57

73.05

SD

62.36

57.14

81.39

64.97

74.50

Number of Facebook Friends

M

352.70

365.09

365.04

279.71

441.22

SD

229.68

238.40

241.14

242.37

227.34

Number of Facebook Groups

M

66.33

24.32

111.59

42.43

118.49

SD

212.41

57.87

331.56

83.46

355.42

Number of Facebook Photos

M

283.18

300.64

259.38

161.09

385.07

SD

368.86

425.03

273.17

215.55

362.27

The results strongly support the hypothesis that students with high levels of extraversion (M=441, SD=227) would have more Facebook friends than the students with lower levels of extraversion (M=279, SD=242). It was also supported that students with high levels of extraversion (M=118.49, SD=355.42) would belong to more Facebook groups than the students with lower levels of extraversion (M=42.43, SD=83.46). The hypothesis that students with high levels of neuroticism (M=82.38, SD=81.39) would spend more time on Facebook than the students with lower levels of neuroticism (M=59.13, SD=57.14) was only partially supported. The results indicated that students with high levels of neuroticism belonged to significantly more Facebook groups than students with lower levels of neuroticism. Also worth noting was levels of neuroticism didn’t have any impact on number of Facebook friends. Neuroticism also didn’t have much of an impact on the number of Facebook photos, while the students in the high extraversion group had significantly more Facebook photos than the students in the low extraversion group.

Table 2
Percentage of Students’ Responses to Facebook Usage

Preferred Function of Facebook

P

Student’s Reasons for Using Facebook

P

Wall

35.1

Communicating With Friends

55.9

Messages

17.9

Communicating With People From Past

17.2

Photos

17.7

Provides a Distraction

4.9

Events

14.6

Provides Information

4.9

Note. P = Percentage

These results indicate that the student sample’s most preferred function of Facebook was the wall feature (35.1%), and the most common reason for using Facebook was to communicate with friends (55.9%).

Discussion

As anticipated, personality influenced student’s use of Facebook across a number of areas. The results strongly supported the hypothesis that students in the high extraversion group would have more Facebook friends and belong to more groups than the students in the low extraversion group, which is consistent with the research of Ross et al (2009) and Amichai-Hamburger & Vinitzky (2010). Because extroverts are generally more sociable and have more friends in the offline world, it could be explained that this trend is mirrored online by having more Facebook friends and belonging to more social groups. The results only partially supported the hypothesis that students with high levels of neuroticism would spend more time on Facebook than the students with low levels of neuroticism, as there wasn’t a significant difference in scores between the two neurotic groups, the same applied to the extraverted groups; this suggests that personality does have an influence on Facebook usage, but only slightly on the amount of time spent using Facebook each day.

While the results affirmed our two hypotheses and remained consistent with the findings of previous research, there were several limitations. The present study utilised the Facebook Questionnaire which was used by Ross et al (2009), however, as stated by Amichai-Hamburger & Vinitzky (2010) this was not a very effective research method as self-reports are influenced by social desirability. It is also difficult for students to give an accurate estimate of how much time they spend on Facebook each day, or how many groups they belong to, which would lead to a lot of student’s making up data. The study also used the Australian Personality Inventory (API; Murray et al., 2009) which is a condensed form of the NEO-PI-R used in past research; this indicates that the API would construct a less accurate personality assessment. The students could have also chosen desirable answers rather than realistic ones, suggesting the results could have been biased. Another limitation was the chance that some individuals could have appeared in more than one personality group, which would explain why both the high and low neurotic groups had more Facebook friends than the low extraverted and overall group, and the highly neurotic group belonged to almost as many Facebook groups as the highly extraverted group.

The sample used in the present study was selected out of convenience and was predominantly female first year psychology students. Therefore the sample was not an accurate representation of the general student population and the results can’t be generalised. In future research the sample should be randomly selected from a range of courses and universities and also portray an even gender ratio, this would produce stronger results. Future studies could also implement the NEO-PI-R instead of the API or even utilise one on one personality assessments to achieve more accurate results. The present study expands on the growing research on personality and its influence on Facebook usage; it suggests that personality does in fact play a part in how a student uses Facebook. The current study will specifically help those in the field of psychology understand how personality traits of students in the offline world translate to the online world. The research could also be helpful to market researchers as it provides them with information regarding what students are interested in and where they allocate most of their spare time.

In conclusion, it was revealed that personality traits did have a role in influencing how students use Facebook. This was most apparent across all the areas of Facebook usage, but most evident in the extroverted group’s Facebook friend count. The study is consistent with past research and validates the idea that personality plays a role in how we use Facebook. The results of the study provide valuable information to future researchers who want to further examine Facebook and personality, and it is of most importance to psychologists, market researchers, teachers and students who seek a greater understanding of how people interact in the world of online communication provided by Facebook.

References

Amichai-Hamburger, Y., & Vinitzky, G. (2010). Social network use and personality. Computers in Human Behaviour, 26, 1289-1295.

Costa, P.T., & McCrae, R.R. (1992). Revised NEO Personality Inventory (NEO-PI-R) and NEO Five-Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI) manual. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.

Livingstone, S. (2008). Taking risky opportunities in youthful content creation: Teenagers’ use of social networking sites for intimacy, privacy and self-expression. New Media and Society, 10(3), 393-411.

Murray, G., Judd, F., Jackson, H., Fraser, C., Komiti, A., Pattison, P., & Robins, G. (2009). Personality for free: Psychometric properties of a public domain Australian measure of the five-factor model. Australian Journal of Psychology, 61, 167–174.

Ross, C., Orr, E.S., Mia Sisic, B.A., Arseneault, J.M., Simmering, M.G., & Orr, R.R. (2009). Personality and motivations associated with Facebook use. Computers in Human Behaviour, 25, 576-586.

Wilson, K., Fornasier, S., & White, K.M. (2010). Psychological Predictors of Young Adults’ Use of Social Networking Sites. Cyberpsychology, Behaviour, and Social Networking, 13(2), 173-177.

3 thoughts on “Examining the Influence of Extraversion and Neuroticism on a Student’s Facebook Usage.

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