We reported last week that Facebook is coming up with a plan to prevent us from embarrassing ourselves on the social media platform. But in order to work effectively, Facebook needs to get to know you. According to a new study, the company can do so by examining what you post on the site. It's not necessarily just about the content — for example, knowing you don't eat meat because you posted a listicle called "5 Things You Should Never Say To Vegans" to your friend's timeline — but about how you phrase your posts.
The study, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, found an association between words used in Facebook posts and personality traits. The results may not be surprising, with words like "book," "read," and "computer" associated with introverts, but it's interesting that the words we thoughtlessly use on Facebook are so indicative of the type of people we are.
Gregory Park, a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Pennsylvania's Positive Psychology Center, and colleagues analyzed Facebook status updates from over 66,000 users. They also gave them a questionnaire in which they reported to what degree they had the "Big Five" personality traits — openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism.
Park described their strategy to New York Magazine:
After identifying the words and phrases that correlate with personality traits (like missin and extraversion), we developed a predictive algorithm could use just the words from Facebook updates to accurately assess a user's big five traits — at least as well as their friends can (and friends are surprisingly good judges of our personalities!).
Here are some of the top words and phrases (emoticons included) associated with each type of personality, in no particular order:
- High predicted extraversion: love!, night, party, tonight, come, excited, might, amazing, weekend, amazing, best, :)
- Low predicted extraversion: i_don't, of, computer, won't, i've, internet, read, apparently, finished, probably, least
- High predicted neuroticism: really, sick, feel, hate, i_don't, i_can't, i, why, hair, stupid, i've, wish, :(
- Low predicted neuroticism: in, the, game, great, success, team, workout, weekend, time, good, football
So you can kind of see where this is going. As you can imagine, categories like "High predicted agreeableness" are going to differ dramatically (and rather startlingly) from "Low predicted agreeableness."
If you'd like to see the complete graphic from the paper, NSFW words and all, you can find it here.
What do you think of Park and his team's findings?
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