Language Matters: Studying Personality with Facebook

How much do our Facebook profiles reveal about who we really are?

Researchers at Cambridge University are trying to find out by analyzing the language of Facebook status updates.  With 75,000 volunteers, it’s the largest investigation of language and personality that’s ever been done.

They found some funny correlations, like how teenagers often post the word “ugh” with the word “homework.”  They also found some more revealing results, like a higher frequency of words and phrases like “sick of” and “depressed” being used by neurotic people.

Grouping words by age and frequency shows some obvious trends in Facebook statuses. Which group do you fit into?

Using the language of Facebook statuses to study personality is uniquely effective because Facebook statuses are created naturally by people, using their own words.  This is different from other studies of language and personality, where researchers can only analyze a fixed list of words and phrases.

Of course, the study isn’t perfect, mostly because people self-edit on Facebook.  They post what they think will gain attention or “likes” and they leave out less desirable aspects of their lives.  Still, the research is promising and could be a new direction for studying personality.

Do your Facebook statuses reveal your personality?

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