Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Psychology

The Facebook Feedback Hypothesis of Personality and Social Belonging

Academic journal article New Zealand Journal of Psychology

The Facebook Feedback Hypothesis of Personality and Social Belonging

Article excerpt

Social networking sites such as Facebook are used daily by over 70% of the American online population (Duggan & Smith, 2013), and 65% of New Zealands online population (Bascand, 2013). Such sites sell themselves by claiming to help you "connect and share with the people in your life" (Facebook, 2014). The growing popularity of Facebook and other social networking sites is at the heart of a debate surrounding meanings of modern society, and how social networking may be affecting our sense of community, connectedness, and belonging. In his book Bowling Alone: America's Declining Social Capital, Putnam (2000) argues that our collective social capital--the sum of our meaningful social ties with each other--is decreasing as evidenced by the weakening of our relationships with family, friends and community (Putnam, 2000). Such observations raise the question: is Facebook, and the growing use of online social media in general, helping, hindering or hurting the way we connect with each other? Here we seek to contribute to research examining this topical issue by focusing specifically on whether the relationship between online social media usage and social capital differ across individuals, and are contingent upon the basic personality traits that regulate social interaction across numerous contexts. Put another way: is Facebook beneficial for some, but detrimental for others?

Like the use of any communication medium, social network use is not good or bad on its own, and so it is important to examine the individual differences of social network users and how these differences moderate psychosocial outcomes (McKenna & Bargh, 2000). In this research, we employ a large, nationally representative sample of adult New Zealanders to examine the possible interactions between Facebook use and the Five Factor Model of personality (Goldberg, 1990; McCrae & Costa, 1997) in predicting social capital outcomes. In particular, we examine Extraversion as it reflects the extent to which people invest in engagement in social endeavours, and reflects the traits of sociability, liveliness and exhibition (Ashton & Lee, 2007; Sibley et al., 2011). As Ashton and Lee (2007) argued, Extraversion should have different adaptive benefits and costs, depending on one's social environment. On the one hand, a high level of Extraversion should be beneficial to the extent that it helps facilitate social gains in the form of friends, mates, and alliances with others. On the other hand, a high level of Extraversion may also have costs in terms of expenditure of energy and time, and also increased risks from the social environment when interacting with unfamiliar others. Here, we examine the moderating effects of Extraversion on the relationship between Facebook usage and felt belongingness. Felt belongingness is a general measure of how included and accepted someone feels, and is widely used in the psychological literature as an indicator of social capital and connection with others (Baumeister & Leary, 1995).

How might Facebook usage be differentially related to the level of social capital enjoyed by extraverts and introverts? There are currently two major theories surrounding the use of social technology: the social enhancement hypothesis and the social compensation hypothesis (Kraut et al., 2002). The social enhancement perspective argues that individuals high in Extraversion will use social networking sites in the same way as they socialize offline, and thus will receive greater social benefits from the use of these sites relative to more introverted individuals (i.e., the 'rich get richer'). According to this theory, the time and energy committed to interacting with others on social media should pay off for extraverts in much the same way as it does in other contexts.

The social compensation hypothesis, in contrast, argues that social networking sites afford those low in Extraversion a chance to make up for the relationships they struggle to establish or maintain offline (i. …

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