New research suggests Facebook is a busy venue for those who are generally insecure in their relationships.
Investigators found insecure people are often very active on the social media site, frequently posting on walls, commenting, updating their status or “liking” something, in hopes of getting attention.
Researchers performed two surveys of nearly 600 people ages 18-83, asking participants about their tendencies in close relationships and their Facebook habits.
In their findings, Union College investigators discovered that there are at least two kinds of active Facebook users: people who are higher in attachment anxiety, and people who are higher in extraversion.
People who were higher in attachment anxiety — that is, they worry that other people don’t love them as much as they want to be loved, and are chronically concerned about rejection and abandonment — reported greater amounts of what the study refers to as “feedback seeking” on Facebook.
Researchers found that this group turn to Facebook to obtain reassurance that they are loved. Individuals are typically very sensitive to other people’s opinions about them and they use Facebook, with its 1.2 billion users, for feedback.
The study is published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences.
“Compared to more secure people, those higher in attachment anxiety are more feedback-sensitive,” said Dr. Joshua Hart, associate professor of psychology and the lead author of the study.
“They report feeling much better about themselves when they get a lot of comments, likes, and other feedback on their posts and worse about themselves when their Facebook activity generates little attention.”
Anxiously attached individuals’ level of feedback sensitivity correlates with how active they are on Facebook, Hart says, “and it appears that this strategy may work: they report receiving more attention than people lower in attachment anxiety.”
Previous research on the relation between personality and styles of engagement with social media is limited and has generated mixed results.
The current study is one of the first to examine the reasons people turn to Facebook and the kind of engagement they exhibit as a function of their personality style.
As for extraverts’ active Facebook use, the authors leave a fuller explanation to future research. But they note that extraverts’ reasons for active use are different from anxiously attached individuals’ inclination toward frequent and varied posting as a platform to get positive attention to compensate for insecurities.
“These studies are consistent with many people’s intuitions that some individuals use Facebook to fulfill emotional and relationship needs that are unmet in the ‘real’ world,” Hart said.
“There is a robust debate playing out in psychological science and pop culture as to whether Facebook represents a healthy or unhealthy outlet for such needs. I think the jury’s still out on that, but this research suggests that personality is an important factor to consider when investigating the causes and consequences of people’s engagement with social media.”
Source: Union College