Correlates of Facebook Use: Extraversion, Neuroticism, and Social Media Addiction

(Lab Report for a Social Psychology Study)

IMAGE: Person using Facebook on their mobile device to give a ‘love’ reaction to a post. © Adobe Stock.

Abstract

Facebook has become a popular social networking site (SNS) used by many. The aim of this study was to explore the relationship between Facebook use (FU) and extraversion, neuroticism, and social media addiction (SMA). Participants were a community sample of 852 individuals recruited via online survey distribution. They completed this approximately 20-minute survey online. Results demonstrated that both extraversion and SMA were positively correlated with FU, whereas neuroticism was not correlated with FU. However, an alternative explanation of lack of social connection may be responsible for these correlations, and environmental factors may be responsible for there being no relationship with neuroticism.

Keywords: Facebook, extraversion, neuroticism, social media, addiction

Introduction

Facebook is the most popular SNS in the world, with over 2,740 million users (Statista, 2021). It is a relatively new way of sharing information and interacting with others that brings with it many benefits and concerns (Wilson et al., 2012). It enables one to build and maintain social relationships, while engaging in content that varies depending on their individual differences, and it is these differences in personality traits that could be a cause of addiction to the platform (van der Schyff et al., 2020). The aim of this study was to explore the correlations between FU and the personality traits of extraversion and neuroticism, along with SMA.

Extraversion is a variable that may be related to FU. Extraversion is a personality trait that describes an individual’s tendency to desire social attention, as well as be assertive, spontaneous, and energetic (Wilt & Revelle, 2017). Uses and gratifications theory posits that people seek out media in order to satisfy their wants and needs (Ifinedo, 2016). Because Facebook is a SNS that allows for digital social connectivity, social enhancement and maintaining interpersonal connections are two categories of uses and gratifications theory that seem likely to be relevant for extraverted individuals. This suggests that FU should be positively correlated with extraversion. Previous research has found a positive relationship between extraversion and FU (Hwang, 2017; Marino et al., 2018; Petrocchi et al., 2015), and found that the intensity of FU is stronger for extraverted males than females (van der Schyff et al., 2020). Other research has demonstrated that the level of Facebook activity was significantly positively correlated with extraversion (Michikyan et al., 2014).

Neuroticism is a variable that may be related to FU. Neuroticism is a personality trait that describes an individual’s tendency to experience negative affect, such as anger, anxiety, and sadness (Tackett & Lahey, 2017). If media is selected based on fulfilling a person’s needs and gratifications, as proposed by uses and gratifications theory (Ifinedo, 2016), this may be responsible for the relationship. That is, it may be that face-to-face social interaction is a trigger for neurotic individuals to experience these negative emotions, and the digital form of SNSs such as Facebook could then provide an outlet to fulfill their need for social interaction in a way that causes them less negative affect. This suggests that FU should be positively correlated with neuroticism. Previous research has found a positive relationship between neuroticism and FU (Hwang, 2017; Marino et al., 2018; Petrocchi et al., 2015), as well as SNSs more generally (Correa et al., 2010). Other research has demonstrated that neurotic individuals have a preference for online interactions due to them being considered more representative of their true self than their real-world interactions (Amichai-Hamburger et al., 2002). Further research has found that FU was a predictor of lower symptoms of depression in females with high neuroticism (Simoncic et al., 2014).

SMA is a variable that may be related to FU. SMA is an attachment to social media that is excessive and leads to a variety of negative consequences (Marengo et al., 2020). Nadkarni and Hofmann’s (2012) dual-factor model proposes that social media use is primarily motivated by two fundamental needs: the need for belonging, and the need for self-presentation. Facebook’s design features facilitate interacting with others and sharing self-related content which would help one to meet these needs. Using Facebook to gratify these needs, as well as engage in social comparison, can increase one’s reputation, which activates the nucleus accubens — the reward system of the brain (Meshi et al., 2013). This activation of the reward system would reinforce FU, and may lead to SMA, potentially resulting in more use. This suggests that FU should be positively correlated with SMA. Previous research has found that high levels of both FU and addictive tendencies were reported by extraverted individuals (Wilson et al., 2010). Other research has found that the overall time spent online is a predictor of Facebook addiction (Przepiorka & Blachnio, 2016).

The aim of this study was to investigate the relationship between FU and extraversion, neuroticism, and SMA. The study used a correlational survey to determine these relationships. Due to the reasons stated previously, it is predicted that extraversion, neuroticism, and SMA will all be positively correlated with FU.

Method

Participants

Participants were recruited through online survey distribution. The community sample included 852 (545 female, 289 male, 15 non-binary, 3 other-identifying) with a mean age of 28.94 years (SD = 13.98).

Procedure

The study was a part of a broader questionnaire that was conducted as part of a second-year undergraduate psychology course. The survey was distributed primarily through posting links to the online survey in a variety of personality typology Facebook groups. Participants completed the questionnaire online through the Qualtrics survey platform. Completing the survey took approximately 20 minutes. It was open for approximately one week and closed on 2 April 2021. It involved participants filling in demographic information and then responding to 86 items that corresponded with FU and 21 other variables.

Measures

Extraversion

Two items were adapted from the Big Five Inventory-10 (Rammstedt & John, 2007). Responses were recorded on a seven-point Likert scale (e.g., “I see myself as someone who is outgoing, sociable”, 1 = strongly disagree, 7 = strongly agree). Responses to the two corresponding items were averaged, where higher scores indicated higher extraversion.

Neuroticism

Two items were adapted from the Big Five Inventory-10 (Rammstedt & John, 2007). Responses were recorded on a seven-point Likert scale (e.g., “I see myself as someone who gets nervous easily”, 1 = strongly disagree, 7 = strongly agree). Responses to the two corresponding items were averaged, where higher scores indicated higher neuroticism.

SMA

Four items were adapted from the Bergen SMA Scale (Andreassen et al., 2016). Responses were recorded on a seven-point Likert scale (e.g., “How often during the last year have you felt an urge to use social media more and more?”, 1 = never, 7 = always). Responses to the four corresponding items were averaged, where higher scores indicated higher SMA.

FU

Four items were adapted from the Facebook Intensity Scale (Ellison et al., 2007). Responses were recorded on a seven-point Likert scale (e.g., “Facebook is part of my everyday activity”, 1 = strongly disagree, 7 = strongly agree). Responses to the four corresponding items were averaged, where higher scores indicated higher FU.

Results

Pearson’s correlation coefficient values for each variable were calculated for their relationship to FU and tested for statistical significance, results shown in Table 1. Extraversion was found to have a small to moderate significant positive correlation with FU (p < .001). Neuroticism was not found to be correlated with FU (p = .326). SMA was found to have a small to moderate significant positive correlation with FU (p < .001).

Discussion

The aim of this study was to investigate the relationship between FU and extraversion, neuroticism, and SMA. It was predicted that extraversion, neuroticism, and SMA would all be positively correlated with FU.

Consistent with predictions, results demonstrated a significant positive relationship between extraversion and FU. This is consistent with past research which found a positive relationship between extraversion and FU (Hwang, 2017; Marino et al., 2018; Petrocchi et al., 2015), and level/intensity of Facebook activity (Michikyan et al., 2014; van der Schyff et al., 2020). This is likely because extraverted individuals use Facebook to help meet their stronger need for social attention. Although, it may also be that environmental factors influenced the results. That is, because extraverts have a preference for real-world interactions (Amichai-Hamburger et al., 2002), they may only be using SNSs like Facebook because their need for social attention is not being met in their environment. Whereas, if they were in an environment where those needs were being met, one might find a negative correlation between extraversion and FU. These findings might suggest that extraverts are using SNSs like Facebook to meet their social and emotional needs in the absence of them being met in their local environments.

Contrary to predictions, results demonstrated no relationship between neuroticism and FU. This is inconsistent with past research which found a positive relationship between neuroticism and FU (Hwang, 2017; Marino et al., 2018; Petrocchi et al., 2015), SNS use (Correa et al., 2010), and a general preference for online interactions (Amichai-Hamburger et al., 2002). This may be due to the COVID-19 pandemic which meant that people became more reliant upon SNSs to meet their social needs, with Australians spending roughly 30% more time on SNSs than pre-COVID-19 (L&A Social, 2020). This environmental factor likely meant that more emotionally stable individuals needed to use SNSs such as Facebook for social interaction despite usually preferring to engage face-to-face, and thus reducing the relationship between neuroticism and FU.

Consistent with predictions, results demonstrated a significant positive relationship between SMA and FU. This is consistent with past research which found a positive relationship between FU and addictive tendencies (Wilson et al., 2010), and between time spent online with Facebook addiction (Przepiorka & Blachnio, 2016). This may be because FU can activate the reward-centre of the brain (Meshi et al., 2013), and potentially lead to addictive behaviour. Although, social connection has been found to be an important factor related to addiction (Gifford & Humphreys, 2007), so because SNSs are a way of achieving a sense of social connection, it may be that a lack of social connection in real life is the underlying factor that is driving both FU and SMA. Therefore, if you were to increase social connection within their real lives, you might find a decrease in both. Similar to extraversion, these findings might suggest that those with SMA are using SNSs like Facebook to meet their social and emotional needs in the absence of them being met in their local environments.

A limitation of this study is its correlational design due to it being only able to determine a relationship between variables, and not able to determine a direction of this relationship. For example, it may be that extraversion causes individuals to use Facebook more, or FU causes individuals to become more extraverted. It may also be that SMA causes more FU, or FU causes more SMA. Furthermore, it might also be that both directions are true, leading to a cycle where they reinforce one another.

Future research could entail a quasi-experimental longitudinal design with individuals that have been pre-determined to be either high in extraversion or low in extraversion, which live in environments that are either socially rich or isolated (with equal access to Facebook). One could measure various different variables (e.g., frequency/duration of use) related to FU and addiction over time to find out the effect that these levels of extraversion and environments have on these variables. This would allow one to determine the direction of the effect of FU, while also examining environmental factors against levels of extraversion. Two things would be predicted. Firstly, that FU would be significantly higher for individuals low in extraversion, and that this effect would be greater for isolated environments. Secondly, that FU would be significantly lower for extraverted individuals, and that this effect would be greater for socially rich environments.

In conclusion, research demonstrates that there are clear relationships between FU, SMA, and personality traits. If these relationships can be better understood, it will help to determine how these new mediums are changing how people relate to one another and enable us to develop better psychological interventions.

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