Media Effects Research Lab - Research Archive

Retreat from curated reality: Investigating the relationship between personality traits, motivation, and Facebook disengagement

Student Researcher(s)

Jason Freeman (Ph.D Candidate); Johnna Blair (Ph.D Candidate); Michael Krieger (Ph.D Candidate)

Faculty Supervisor

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar

This paper was based on a project, as part of the Comm 506 course.

 

INTRODUCTION
With over 2 billion monthly users, Facebook is the world’s most popular social networking platform. However, at the same time as Facebook surpasses key milestones and posts record profits, there is an emerging discourse about our dependence on the social networking site. While there is a significant body of literature on Facebook use, relatively little scholarly attention has been paid to who is disengaging and why. The purpose of this study is to fill a gap in the literature by examining the role of personality and motivation along the continuum of use and non-use.

 

RESEARCH QUESTION / HYPOTHESES
For the general population, controlling for age, gender, and education, what is the relationship between user personality traits and motivations and continued Facebook use?
H1: Individuals with higher levels of (a) narcissism and (b) agreeableness will be less likely to discontinue their Facebook use.
H2: Individuals with higher levels of (a) narcissism and (b) agreeableness will be less likely to think about discontinuing their Facebook use.
H3: Individuals with higher conscientiousness will be more likely to discontinue Facebook use.
H4: Individuals with higher conscientiousness will be more likely to think about discontinuing Facebook use.

 

METHOD
Several established personality measures, including the Big Five Inventory and Narcissism scales and Facebook usage behaviors were assessed using a survey. Facebook use was operationalized on three levels: currently having an account, recent or past deactivation, and thoughts of deactivation. The survey was administered through Amazon Mechanical Turk and the total sample size was 221 respondents.

 

RESULTS
Agreeableness was shown to play a significant role across all measured levels of usage, in favor of maintaining a Facebook account. Those with higher levels of conscientiousness and high self-esteem were each individually associated with remaining on Facebook. Individuals who are more prone to downward social comparison were significantly less likely to think of quitting Facebook. Higher levels of narcissism and neuroticism were each individually associated with Facebook deactivation, whereas low self-esteem and high neuroticism were associated with thoughts of quitting. Openness, extraversion, privacy, and self-monitoring were not significantly associated with any of the dependent usage variables.
“Place table 2, table 3, and table 4, here.”

 

CONCLUSIONS/DISCUSSION
Many of our results ran counter to previous research, however, this is likely due to the evolving nature of Facebook use and the growing number of other social media options. We speculate that those high in narcissism are likely leaving Facebook in favor of more self-oriented platforms, such as Snapchat and Instagram. Highly conscientious users likely view Facebook as a way to stay informed, share news, and voice opinions; congruent with Facebook’s current environment. High agreeableness was the strongest predictor of Facebook use. This likely stems from a motivation to maintain positive relationships, making them more adaptable to Facebook’s changing social climate.

For more details regarding the study contact

Dr. S. Shyam Sundar by e-mail at sss12@psu.edu or by telephone at (814) 865-2173

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