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"On the Internet No One Knows I'm an Introvert": Extroversion, Neuroticism, and Internet Interaction

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Social communication is one of the most common reasons for using the Internet. This paper examines how the personality characteristics of the user affect the meaning and importance of Internet social interaction in comparison with "real life," face-to-face interactions. Forty subjects all of whom were familiar with using "chat" participated in this study. After a at" session, they were instructed to answer several questionnaires. It was found that introverted and neurotic people locate their "real me" on the Internet, while extroverts and nonneurotic people locate their "real me" through traditional social interaction. The implications of our results for understanding the user-net interaction, the "real-me" location, extroversion, neuroticism, and Internet interaction, and the treatment of social phobics are examined.
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“On the Internet No One Knows I’m an Introvert:
Extroversion, Neuroticism, and Internet Interaction
YAIR AMICHAI-HAMBURGER, Ph.D., GALIT WAINAPEL, and SHAUL FOX
ABSTRACT
Social communication is one of the most common reasons for using the Internet. This
paper examines how the personality characteristics of the user affect the meaning and impor-
tance of Internet social interaction in comparison with “real life,face-to-face interactions.
Forty subjects all of whom were familiar with using chatparticipated in this study. After a
“chatsession, they were instructed to answer several questionnaires. It was found that intro-
verted and neurotic people locate their “real me” on the Internet, while extroverts and non-
neurotic people locate their “real me” through traditional social interaction. The implications
of our results for understanding the user–net interaction, the real-melocation, extrover-
sion, neuroticism, and Internet interaction, and the treatment of social phobics are examined.
125
CYBERPSYC HOLOGY & BEHAVIOR
Volume 5, Number 2, 2002
© Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.
INTRODUCTION
O
NE OF THE MOST POPULAR SERVICES
offered
by the Internet is that of social communi-
cation.
1
Kraut et al.
2
carried out a longitudinal
Internet study. Their main conclusion was that
Internet use leads to loneliness and depression
among its users. Conversely, McKenna and
Bargh
3
found that, for people who felt that
their identity carried a stigma with it, the
anonymous Internet environment and the ease
with which it is possible to find like-minded
people helped them to build significant rela-
tionships with others. Some of them actually
chose to meet their Internet respondent face to
face and even entered into matrimony.
Amichai-Hamburger
4
criticized the work of
Kraut et al.
2
on several counts. First, that it
failed to take into account that the population
of Internet users is not uniform but comprises
many different personality types. Second, that
it ignored the fact that the Internet does not pro-
vide only one service, which is taken up by all
its users, but rather, it provides a variety of ser-
vices, which are used by different types of peo-
ple in different ways according to preference.
Therefore, the effect of this interaction between
personality and Internet use is likely to vary
among different individuals and similarly the
impact on user well-being will not be uniform.
McKenna and Bargh
5
suggested that social
interaction on the net has unique characteris-
tics: (1) anonymity, the fact that relationships
may be formed without the ubiquitous require-
ments of physical presence and proximity;
(2) that the individual can choose when to log
on and off and repeatedly rewrite what he/she
wishes to say, which gives him/her far greater
control than is usual for a relationship happen-
ing in real time. McKenna and Bargh
6
have
gone on to suggest that there are two main mo-
tivators behind the tendency to interact with
others on the Internet: self-related motives and
social-related motives. Those for whom these
needs are not satisfied through daily social in-
teraction may attempt to fulfill them through
Psychology Department, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel.
the Internet. McKenna and Bargh focused on
the self-related needs and argued that, when
the self cannot be expressed in the immediate
environment, the individual will strive to find
a social framework in which he/she can ex-
press his/her personality and needs. McKenna
and Bargh
3
have based their concept of the real
self on Rogers,
7
who argued that the discovery
of the true self is an essential part of therapy. To
achieve personal satisfaction, a person has to
be able to express his/her real self in social in-
teraction and receive social recognition for it.
To assess the ability to express the personality
layers significantly in communication with
others, McKenna and Bargh
6
created an indica-
tor called the “real me.” This stands for the de-
gree of ability to express fully the real self in a
social environment.
6
Through their work that
includes two extensive surveys of Internet
users and two laboratory experiments, they
were able to suggest that the tendency of peo-
ple to build close and meaningful relationships
on the net is mediated by the location of their
“real me” on the Internet, rather than in the
“real world.”
One personality theory that may be strongly
related to the concept of real-me and may give
it a broader interpretation is the theory of the
extroversion and neuroticism scale.
8
Ham-
burger and Ben-Artzi
1
demonstrated that
extroverts and introverts neurotic and non-
neurotic use different services in different
ways when on the net. This study examines
the interaction between the real meand the
extroversion neuroticism scales through ques-
tionnaires completed by subjects who are reg-
ular users of “chat. It is predicted that
(1) people who are introverts or neurotic be-
cause of their difficulties in social interactions
will locate their “real me” through the Inter-
net; and (2) extroverts and nonneurotic people
will locate their “real me” through traditional
social interactions.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Subjects and procedure
Forty subjects, hi-tech workers (19 men and
21 women) who described themselves as chat
users, ranging in age from 20 to 32 years (
M
=
25), volunteered to participate. To refresh the
experience of “chat, each participant was
asked to enter the chat room #Israel in Dalnet
and take part in a discussion for 20 min. They
were then instructed to complete the following
questionnaires.
Instruments
Real-me questionnaire.
This comprised four
questions focusing on the ease with which
subjects opened up to their Internet friends as
opposed to their real-life friends. Two items
were closed questions (“yes or no” an-
swers): Do you think you reveal more about
yourself to people you know from the Internet
than to real-life (non-Net) friends?” and “Are
there things your Internet friends know about
you that you cannot share with real-life (non-
Net) friends?” Participants were then asked to
rate their answers to the next two questions on
a seven-point scale (1 being “not at alland
7 being a great deal). Question 3 assessed
the extent to which the respondent expresses
different facets of self on the Internet than he
or she does to others in real life,” Question 4
asked for the extent to which a respondents
family and friends would be surprised were
they to read his or her Internet e-mail and
newsgroup postings. The four items were
scale standardized (to
Z
scores and then to
T
score), and then the average was found in
order to form a Real Meindex. The higher
the score indicates that the “real meis more
firmly placed on the Internet. Reliability for
the “real me” questionnaire was Cronbach’s
a = 0.79.
EPQ-R.
The Eyseneck Personality Question-
naire–Revised
8
was then administered. For the
purposes of this study, the Extroversion Neu-
roticism scales only were calculated.
RESULTS
Means and standard deviations for the
study questionnaires are provided in Table 1.
Pearson correlations among extroversion and
neuroticism and the real me” are shown in
Table 2. An inspection of the correlation pat-
tern indicated that extroversion and neuroti-
126 AMICHAI-HAMBURGER ET AL.
cism correlate differently with “real me.” Ex-
troversion was negatively related to the real
me; that is, extroverts locate their real me
through face-to-face interaction, whereas neu-
roticism was positively related to the “real
me,namely, that neurotic people locate their
“real me through Internet interaction. What
seemed to be a difference in neuroticism be-
tween male and female participants was found
to be not significant (
Z
= 1.02,
p
> 0.05).
To examine our results further, we have cut
participants’ results on the extroversion and
neuroticism scales by the median scores of
each of the scale results to high and low. This
has created four groups of subjects: (1) high on
extroversion and high on neuroticism; (2) high
on extroversion and low on neuroticism;
(3) low on extroversion and high on neuroti-
cism; and (4) low on extroversion and low on
neuroticism. A between-subjects factorial de-
sign (ANOVA), 2 (Extroversion) 2 2 (Neuroti-
cism) was conducted on participants real me
ratings. Results are shown in Table 3. There
was a main effect for extroversion (
F
(1, 36) =
6.38;
p
< 0.016). As we can see from Table 4, ex-
troverts locate their “real mein face-to-face
interactions while introverts locate their “real
me through the Internet. The neuroticism fac-
tor was found nearly significant (
F
(1,36) =
3.43;
p
< 0.072). As we can see from Table 4,
neurotic people locate their “real methrough
the Internet, while nonneurotic people locate
their “real me in face-to-face interactions.
There was no significant interaction. If we look
at Table 4, it is important to note that the neu-
rotic introverts were the highest on “real me
(
M
= 55.98), while the lowest were the extro-
vert nonneurotics (
M
= 46.06). These results
strengthen the results we obtained with the
Pearson correlations.
DISCUSSION
It was found that introverted and neurotic
people locate their “real meon the Internet,
while extroverts and nonneurotic people lo-
cate their real methrough traditional social
interaction. These results confirmed our
predictions.
It would appear that the social services pro-
vided on the Internet, with their anonymity,
lack of need to reveal physical appearance,
rigid control of information revealed in the in-
teraction, and the ease with which it is possible
INTERNET INTERACTION 127
T
ABLE
1. M
EANS AND
S
TANDARD
D
EVIATIONS OF
E-S
CALE
,
N-S
CALE
,
AND
“R
EAL
M
E
Entire
sample Males Females
Variable (n = 40) (n = 19) (n = 21)
E scale
M 14.7 15.36 14.09
SD 5.45 5.21 5.71
N scale
M 10.72 9.84 11.52
SD 5.21 4.92 5.45
Real me
M 50.00 50.46 49.58
SD 7.82 6.54 8.98
T
ABLE
2. P
EARSON
C
ORRELATIONS AMONG
E
XTROVERSION
AND
N
EUROTICISM AND
“R
EAL
M
E
Real me Extroversion Neuroticism
Entire sample 20.45** 0.33*
Males 20.48* 0.16
Females 20.46* 0.46*
*p < 0.05.
**p < 0.01.
T
ABLE
4. M
EANS AND
S
TANDARD
D
EVIATIONS OF
E
XTROVERTS AND
N
EUROTICS
“R
EAL
-M
E
R
ATINGS
Extroversion scale
Neuroticism scale Extroverts Introverts
Neurotics
N 7 12
M 47.8 55.98
SD 8.73 6.02
Nonneurotics
N 13 8
M 46.06 49.33
SD 4.7 9.25
T
ABLE
3. ANOVA
S WITH
“R
EAL
M
E
AS
D
EPENDENT
A
NOVA
V
ARIABLE
, E
XTROVERSION AND
N
EUROTICISM AS
M
AIN
E
FFECTS
,
AND
E
XTROVERSION
N
EUROTICISM AS
I
NTERACTION
E
FFECT
Variables df MS F p
Extroversion (E) 1 305.53 6.38 0.016
Neuroticism (N) 1 164.5 3.43 0.072
E 2 N 1 56.33 1.17 0.285
to find like-minded people, provide an excel-
lent answer to people who experience great
difficulty in forming social contacts due to
their introverted personality.
McKenna and Bargh
6
showed that relation-
ships in cyberspace can and do move into real
life, and this may provide significant hope for
those who find it very difficult to build a con-
nection and who are consequently very lonely.
The concept of a virtual world, which is
sometimes used to describe the Internet, car-
ries with it the idea that the Internet is some
kind of replacement for the real world. How-
ever, our results indicate that, for introverts
and neurotics, the Internet can play a vital role
in providing the opportunity to express their
“real me. The expression of the “real meis
not a minor aspect of life but a very crucial one.
People who can’t express their real me” are
prone to suffer from serious psychological dis-
orders.
7
It is therefore important to continue re-
search in this field that will enhance our
knowledge of the interaction between the user
and the Internet and its impact on well-being.
REFERENCES
1. Hamburger, Y.A., & Ben-Artzi, E. (2000). The rela-
tionship between extraversion and neuroticism and
the different uses of the Internet. Computers in
Human Behavior 16:441–449.
2. Kraut, P., Patterson, M., Lundmark, V., et al. (1998).
Internet paradox: a social technology that reduces
social involvement and psychological well-being?
American Psychologist 53:65–77.
3. McKenna, K.Y.A., & Bargh, J.A. (1998). Coming out
in the age of the Internet: identity de-marginaliza -
tionthrough virtual group participation. Journal of
Personality and Social Psychology 75:681694.
4. Amichai-Hamburger, Y. (2002). Internet and person-
ality. Computers in Human Behavior 18:1–10.
5. McKenna, K.Y., & Bargh, J.A. (2000). Plan 9 from cy-
berspace: the implications of the Internet for person-
ality and social psychology. Personality and Social
Psychology Review 4:57–75.
6. McKenna, K.Y.A., & Bargh, J. (2002). Can you see the
“real me”? A theory of relationship formation on the
Internet (in press).
7. Rogers, C. (1951). Client-centered therapy. Boston:
Houghton-Mifflin.
8. Eysenck, S.B.G., Eysenck, H.J., & Barrett, P.A. (1985).
Revised version of the psychoticism scale. Personality
and Individual Differences 6:21–29.
Address reprint requests to:
Dr. Yair Amichai-Hamburger
Psychology Department
Bar-Ilan University
Ramat-Gan, 52900, Israel
E-mail:
hambur@mail.biu.ac.il
128 AMICHAI-HAMBURGER ET AL.
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Can you see the " real me " ? A theory of relationship formation on the Internet
  • K Y A Mckenna
  • J Bargh
McKenna, K.Y.A., & Bargh, J. (2002). Can you see the " real me " ? A theory of relationship formation on the Internet (in press).