No Really, “What’s On Your Mind?”

Özge Üstündağ

Your Personality and Facebook

Facebook status update question, “What’s on your mind?” is far from being humdrum. Do you think that you would publicly announce why you just broke up with your sweetie on Facebook? Or, would you post about that “dream job” offer that you got? Perhaps, you just want to comment on the final soccer game you played with classmates before graduation.

But why?

While there is a million topics we could bring to attention on Facebook, why then, do some people constantly update about the organic, “green” diets they follow while others share raging opinions about politics? According to Brunel University (UK) researchers, Tara C. Marshall and colleagues, the answer might lie in people’s personalities.

In their study, Marshall and colleagues wanted to explore whether or not people’s personalities predict the content of their status updates on Facebook. They surveyed 555 users who were currently residing in the United States at the time of the study. The online survey asked participants to answer questions on personality traits (The Big Five; extraversion, neuroticism, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness), self-esteem, narcissistic tendencies (e.g., grandiosity and need to impress), Facebook use (e.g., time spent on Facebook and frequency of status updates), topics of status updates, motives for using Facebook and finally, likes/comments they receive from their friends for a typical status update.

Read on to find out if your status updates match with your personality!

Extraverts “buzz” about their social life

Do you have friends who just talk, talk and talk? Well, they might have sipped two-shots, extra-hot extraverted coffee before bursting out “what’s on their mind.”

The research findings showed that extraversion is positively associated with updating about social activities and everyday life. Chances are that you will catch those “social bees” commenting on the latest summer party they went to in their status updates. In essence, Marshall and colleagues’ findings imply that extraverts have a basic need to be socially active even in computer mediated communication settings. This finding especially holds true for cases in which extraverts are motivated to use Facebook mainly to communicate about their social activities. As the researchers eloquently summarize, for some extraverts, status updates are indispensable tools for social engagement.

Curious fingers want you to become mindful

How about those witty intellects that your eyes catch chilling by the side of an old tree, immersed in the coffee-stained pages of a research article? They will tell you what’s on their mind but not for social engagement.

According to the study, openness (one of the Big Five personality traits) was related to posting about intellectual topics and associated with use of Facebook for information. People high in openness tend to be creative, intellectual and curious to learn about new ideas. Moreover, use of Facebook for self-expression was one of the main motivating factors for frequently updating about current events, political views and research findings.

Who is updating you about their kid’s potty training on Facebook?

It turns out that conscientious/responsible users are the ones to most frequently update about their children. One reason that the researchers propose for this interesting relation between conscientiousness and updating about children is that such updates might reflect “an indirect form of competitive parenting” on Facebook. On the other hand, brand new parents who are highly organized and disciplined may not find the time to physically meet with their friends to get parenting help. So, Facebook might provide them with an easy outlet for sharing ideas about parenting as they adjust to their new roles as parents.

Some try to prove their self-worth

Marshall and colleagues found that people with low self-esteem frequently updated about their current romantic partner on Facebook. In addition, they were more likely to use Facebook for self-expression than for validation. In a way, fear of losing their sweetie might prompt people to post more about their love life in an effort to cocoon and protect their relationships. Moreover, as research shows, people with low self-esteem also post more on days when they feel insecure. So, you may want to think twice before commenting on “the happy couple” on Facebook.

“Look at me!” frequent-Facebook-updater

Narcissism is not usually regarded as a positive personality trait as it is associated with showing-off in public and pursing selfish desires. In line with the idea of narcissists as braggarts, the current research shows that they actually do update more about their accomplishments on Facebook than any other personality trait. Moreover, narcissism was associated with receiving a greater number of likes and comments on Facebook (compared to self-esteem). However, only when these attention lovers reported receiving more likes and comments from their “friends”, did their bragging frequency increase. In other words, narcissists indeed crave attention from other people and they might even intentionally increase their status updates in an effort to quench their thirst for validation. Perhaps, computer mediated communication might lessen the apathy towards narcissists but still, more research is needed as the results are based on self-reports.

On the other hand, Facebook use for self-expression predicted narcissists’ status updates about diet and exercise. Updating about their “healthy” lifestyle might give narcissists the opportunity to prove how much they take care of themselves.

There are a million reasons for why we, social media whizzes, like to publicize our lives on sites like Facebook. However, as the researchers suggest, “Greater awareness of how one’s status updates might be perceived by friends could help people to avoid topics that annoy more than they entertain.”



  • 1. Marshall, C. T., Lefringhausen, K., & Ferenczi, N. (2015). The Big Five, self-esteem, and narcissism as predictors of the topics people write about in Facebook status updates. Personality and Individual Differences, 85, 35-40. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2015.04.