Social how our personalities affect what we share

Social media has revolutionized
modern life in many ways. From the way we find and share information, to the
way we connect with others around the world (Ross et al., 2009), social network
sites, such as Instagram, are one such communication tool that has become an
integral component of our daily lives. According to Nielsen (2012), Internet
users in America continue to spend more time on social media sites than any
other type of website. According to a survey conducted in 2012, 30% of time
spent on mobile phones is spent engaging in social networking activities
(Nielsen & Schroder, 2012). Whether it is used for entertainment purposes,
to meet new people, or to maintain existing relationships, we all spend a
significant amount of time interacting on social networks. It is only natural
to ask ourselves how all this time spent on social media affects our
personalities, or inversely, how our personalities affect what we share on such

According to several sources, Instagram
has been the fastest growing social media platform since 2014. Due to this
statistic, I have decided to base my research around this specific social
network, and explore the relationship between individuals’ personality traits,
and their posting habits on Instagram.

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Statement of Problem

Individuals across the world have
integrated the usage of social media into their daily routines. There appears
to be a lack of research done on the correlation between certain personality
traits and specific social media sites, rather than personality as a broad concept.

Recent reviews of empirical data indicate that certain traits, such as narcissism,
are highly correlated to the amount of self-presented photos individuals post
on their Instagram profiles (Moon, J.H., 2016). Although this research suggests
that narcissism levels and self-presented photos are highly correlated, little
is known about the relationship between other personality traits and Instagram
habits. There is no existing data on how extraversion and individuals’
Instagram posting content and frequency are related. Since such research has
not yet been thoroughly conducted, the present study will explore the trait of
extraversion in individuals and how it relates to the content and frequency of
their Instagram posts.


Literature Review

Instagram and

According to millennials, Instagram
is the most narcissistic social media platform. Whether we realize it or not, Instagram
is an easy-accessible platform to boast about our lives, carefully craft our
feeds, and boost our egos as we receive likes on our posts. While we can
conclude that Instagram is a narcissistic form of social media, we may
reversely say that individuals who are high in narcissism tend to use Instagram
more than others. There has been extensive research conducted on the
relationship between narcissism and one’s Instagram content. Several studies
have discovered a correlation between high levels of narcissism in individuals
and posting self-presented photos, or “selfies”, on their profiles. Results
showed that individuals higher in narcissism tended to post selfies and self-presented
photos, update their profile picture more, and spend more time on the Instagram
app, as compared to their counterparts (Moon et al., 2016). Additionally, it is
to be noted that individuals who are higher in grandiose narcissism tend to
take and post more selfies compared to their counterparts, and experience a
more positive effect when taking selfies (McCain et al., 2016). These
individuals not only show high levels of narcissism, but also show
aggressiveness and violence if they do not receive desired admiration.

Individuals who are high in grandiosity also view others as inferior to


Self-presentation and public

Social media sites can act as
impression management tools when users pick and choose specific content to
share on their profiles that either emphasizes or minimizes their individual
characteristics (Nadkarni & Hoffman, 2012). Online social communities are
especially attractive to those with with social anxiety or lower self-esteem,
as there is far less disapproval, mockery, and rejection when partaking in communication
that is mediated by a screen. (McKenna, Green & Gleason, 2002). The slower
pace and indirect context of social exchanges that occur on the Internet can
make users feel more in control of how well they present themselves to others.

However, to achieve actual wellbeing through online social activities, honest
self-presentation is essential (Kim & Lee, 2010).

The anonymous nature of some
websites can also promote growth of interpersonal relationships. Nonetheless,
this can also encourage destructive behaviour (Suler, 2004). It has been argued
that a “disinhibition effect” exists, where individuals are more inclined to
act out more frequently or intensely than they would in real life. Some have
speculated that these out-of-the-ordinary behaviours occur due to the
perception that there is less aftermath for interacting with strangers who
typically do not have access to their social circles offline (Bargh, McKenna
& Fitzsimons, 2002). Due to the inability to physically see others while
interacting with them, there is also tendency for individuals to project one’s
inner expectations, wishes, and needs onto others, in hope to view others’
opinions as an extension and confirmation of their own thoughts and feelings
(Suler, 2004).

Social network sites
and personality

            There has been extensive research conducted on
how behaviours conducted offline are likely to transfer to the online
environment. According to Ross et al. (2009), there is some evidence to suggest
that certain personality traits and types can influence preference for social
media platforms and features (Ross et al., 2009).

            Back et al. (2010)
argued that the content posted on social media sites could reveal cues about personality
characteristics of the user. In their study, American Facebook users and German
social media users were surveyed, in hopes to determine whether observers could
accurately detect the personality traits of social network users whom they had
never met before (Back et al., 2010). The Ten-Item Personality Inventory (TIPI)
was used for the American sample, and the Big Five Inventory (BFI) and the NEO
Five-Factor Inventory were used for the German sample. Information regarding
the users’ perception of their ideal self was included for this study,
collected using a version of the TIPI and the BFI, and required the
participants to describe themselves as they wish they could be (Back et al.,
2010). Results from this study suggested that extraversion and openness are
most accurately detected by third-party observers, while neuroticism is the
most difficult to identify.

            Ross et al. (2009)
surveyed a group of students to explore how the Five-Factor model of
personality influenced the ways the participants socialized on Facebook.

Results showed that personality influenced some Facebook patterns. Extraverts
belonged to more “groups” on Facebook. Individuals who are high in neuroticism
preferred the “wall” component of Facebook, while those who are low in
neuroticism chose photos as their favourite feature on the site (Ross et al.,
2009). Individuals who scored high on openness communicated with others more
than their counterparts, and used a variety of the features on Facebook. Both
agreeableness and conscientiousness did not appear to have an effect on
Facebook use, based on results of this study (Ross et al., 2009).

            Gosling et al. (2011)
conducted a study to determine whether Facebook activities were indicative of
personality traits (Gosling et al., 2011). In this study, participants who used
Facebook weekly completed the Ten Item Personality Inventory (TIPI), along with
a survey indicating the amount of time spent on Facebook. This study also asked
participants to self-report the number of friends they had on Facebook. Results
indicated that extroverts used Facebook to maintain social ties and exert their
presence on the platform. In fact, extroverts reported a high frequency of use
in all Facebook behaviours, especially commenting on other peoples’ posts. In
addition, extroverted individuals reported a greater number of Facebook
friends. High agreeableness was related to viewing all types of pages more
frequently. Low conscientiousness was related to spending more time viewing
pages and more time on the site in general. Individuals who were high in
openness spent more time adding and replacing photos. With the exception of
neuroticism, which, of all of the Big Five personality traits, had no
significant correlation to Facebook activities, the researchers concluded that
Facebook activities are related to the characteristics found in each respective
Big Five personality dimension.


The current study

            The present study aims
to investigate the content and frequency of individuals’ Instagram posts, in
order to better understand the relationship between extraversion and Instagram
usage. Literature focused on the relationship between personality, depression,
and narcissism provided a conceptual framework for the study. To study the
relationship between narcissism and Instagram posts, researchers have
frequently used self-report methods to gather their data. In these
questionnaires, individuals are asked to answer a series of questions based on
the 13-item Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI-13; Gentile et al., 2013). The
items for the current participant survey were developed using the Big Five
Inventory (see Appendix A), and scored using the Big Five Inventory Scoring Key
(see Appendix B). Using this survey, the present study will be conducted to measure
two dependent variables. First, this study will investigate the personality of
individuals based on the content of their Instagram posts, specifically if they
are high in extraversion. Second, this study will examine the relationship
between personality and the frequency of individuals’ posts. This data should
yield useful information regarding the level of extraversion in individuals and
their unique Instagram activity. Though there have been past studies exploring
the relationship between Instagram and other factors, such as depression and
narcissism, what remains unexplored is the direct relationship between the
specific personality trait of extraversion and Instagram activity. I
hypothesize that individuals who are high in extraversion post more often, as
opposed to their counterparts. I also predict that extroverted individuals post
less self-presented photos, in comparison to any other content. This hypothesis
is based on the fact that, according to Correa et al. (2010), extroverted
people generally use social media more frequently (Correa, T., et al., 2010).

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