Next time you scroll past mushy Facebook posts about relationships, or statuses that gloat about a personal accomplishment, consider this: research suggests those statuses can provide key insights into their authors’ personalities. Scientists at Brunel University in London found that people who post often about their romantic partners are likely suffering from low self-esteem, and people who brag seem to be narcissists.
The research, published in Personality and Individual Differences, focused on 555 Facebook users, who completed online personality surveys that focused on extroversion, neuroticism, openness, agreeableness, and conscientiousness—as well as self-esteem and narcissism.
The researchers found that narcissists used Facebook specifically to promote their diet and exercise successes, suggesting that they value physical appearance. Despite these seemingly annoying updates, researchers saw these statuses rewarded by a high number of likes and comments from friends.
"Although our results suggest that narcissists' bragging pays off because they receive more likes and comments to their status updates, it could be that their Facebook friends politely offer support while secretly disliking such egotistical displays,” study author Dr. Tara Marshall said in a statement.
As for Facebook users with low self-esteem, this isn’t the first study that’s discovered a correlation between excessive status updates and relationship troubles. A recent Northwestern University study found that one member of a couple might increase “relationship visibility” by posting statuses and photos when he or she feels insecure about the relationship. Another study from Albright College found that individuals with a high Relationship Contingent Self-Esteem (RCSE)—a negative form of self-esteem—tend to post romantic statuses to assure themselves that the relationship is going well.
“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,” said Marshall.