Facebook Users Are the Real Thing: Young Adults Don't Deceive Others on Social Networks

By Bower, Bruce | Science News, March 27, 2010 | Go to article overview

Facebook Users Are the Real Thing: Young Adults Don't Deceive Others on Social Networks


Bower, Bruce, Science News


"On the Internet," one dog tells another in a classic New Yorker cartoon, "nobody knows you're a dog."

The Internet is notorious for its digital dens of deception. But on Facebook, what you see tends to be what you get--at least in one study of tailless, two-legged young adults.

College-age users of Facebook in the United States and a similar social networking site in Germany typically present accurate versions of their personalities in online profiles, researchers conclude in an upcoming Psychological Science.

"Online social networks are so popular and so likely to reveal people's actual personalities because they allow for social interactions that feel real in many ways," says psychologist Mitja Back of Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany.

Back's team administered personality inventories to 133 U.S. Facebook users and 103 Germans who used a comparable social networking site. The subjects--who ranged in age from 17 to 22--took the inventory twice, first with instructions to describe their actual personalities and then to portray idealized versions of themselves. The inventories focused on the extent to which volunteers endorsed ratings of extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, emotional instability and openness to new experiences.

Then undergraduate research assistants--nine in the United States and 10 in Germany--rated volunteers' personalities after looking at their online profiles. …

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