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The Big Five, self-esteem, and narcissism as predictors of the topics people write about in Facebook status updates

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Status updates are one of the most popular features of Facebook, but few studies have examined the traits and motives that influence the topics that people choose to update about. In this study, 555 Facebook users completed measures of the Big Five, self-esteem, narcissism, motives for using Facebook, and frequency of updating about a range of topics. Results revealed that extraverts more frequently updated about their social activities and everyday life, which was motivated by their use of Facebook to communicate and connect with others. People high in openness were more likely to update about intellectual topics, consistent with their use of Facebook for sharing information. Participants who were low in self-esteem were more likely to update about romantic partners, whereas those who were high in conscientiousness were more likely to update about their children. Narcissists’ use of Facebook for attention- seeking and validation explained their greater likelihood of updating about their accomplishments and their diet and exercise routine. Furthermore, narcissists’ tendency to update about their accomplishments explained the greater number of likes and comments that they reported receiving to their updates.
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The Big Five, self-esteem, and narcissism as predictors of the topics
people write about in Facebook status updates
Tara C. Marshall
, Katharina Lefringhausen, Nelli Ferenczi
Brunel University, UK
article info
Article history:
Received 23 January 2015
Received in revised form 14 April 2015
Accepted 21 April 2015
Keywords:
Facebook
Social networking
Social media
Status updates
Big five
Self-esteem
Narcissism
abstract
Status updates are one of the most popular features of Facebook, but few studies have examined the traits
and motives that influence the topics that people choose to update about. In this study, 555 Facebook
users completed measures of the Big Five, self-esteem, narcissism, motives for using Facebook, and fre-
quency of updating about a range of topics. Results revealed that extraverts more frequently updated
about their social activities and everyday life, which was motivated by their use of Facebook to commu-
nicate and connect with others. People high in openness were more likely to update about intellectual
topics, consistent with their use of Facebook for sharing information. Participants who were low in
self-esteem were more likely to update about romantic partners, whereas those who were high in con-
scientiousness were more likely to update about their children. Narcissists’ use of Facebook for atten-
tion-seeking and validation explained their greater likelihood of updating about their
accomplishments and their diet and exercise routine. Furthermore, narcissists’ tendency to update about
their accomplishments explained the greater number of likes and comments that they reported receiving
to their updates.
Ó2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd. This is an open accessarticle under the CC BY license (http://
creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
1. Introduction
Why do some people write Facebook status updates that
describe amusing personal anecdotes, whereas others write
updates that declare love to a significant other, express political
opinions, or recount the details of last night’s dinner? Since the
inception of Facebook in 2004, status updates have been one of
its most preferred features (Ryan & Xenos, 2011). Status updates
allow users to share their thoughts, feelings, and activities with
friends, who have the opportunity to ‘‘like’’ and comment in return.
In spite of the central role of status updates in Facebook use, few
studies have examined the predictors of the topics that people
choose to write about in their updates. The current study took a
step in this direction by examining the personality traits associated
with the frequency of updating about five broad topics identified
through a factor analytic approach: social activities and everyday
life, intellectual pursuits, accomplishments, diet/exercise, and sig-
nificant relationships. We also examined whether these associa-
tions were mediated by some of the motives for using Facebook
identified in the literature (e.g., Bazarova & Choi, 2014; Seidman,
2013): need for validation (i.e., seeking attention and acceptance),
self-expression (i.e., disclosing personal opinions, stories, and
complaints), communication (i.e., corresponding and connecting),
and sharing impersonal information (e.g., current events).
A secondary purpose of this study was to examine whether peo-
ple who update more frequently about certain topics receive
greater numbers of ‘‘likes’’ and comments to their updates. Those
who do may experience the benefits of social inclusion, whereas
those who do not might experience a lower sense of belonging,
self-esteem, and meaningful existence (Tobin, Vanman,
Verreynne, & Saeri, 2015). Our results may therefore shed light
on the status update topics that put Facebook users at risk of online
ostracism. Below we review literature on personality traits and
motives that are often linked with Facebook use.
1.1. The Big Five
According to the ‘‘Big Five’’ model of personality, individuals
vary in terms of extraversion, neuroticism, openness to experience,
agreeableness, and conscientiousness (Costa & McCrae, 1992).
People who are extraverted are gregarious, talkative, and cheerful.
They tend to use Facebook as a tool to communicate and socialize
(Seidman, 2013), as reflected in their more frequent use of
Facebook (Gosling, Augustine, Vazire, Holtzmann, & Gaddis,
2011), greater number of Facebook friends (Amichai-Hamburger
& Vinitzky, 2010), and preference for features of Facebook that
allow for active social contribution, such as status updates (Ryan
& Xenos, 2011). We therefore predicted that extraversion would
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.paid.2015.04.039
0191-8869/Ó2015 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.
This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Corresponding author at: Division of Psychology, Department of Life Sciences,
Brunel University, Uxbridge UB8 3PH, UK. Tel.: +44 (0)1895 267096.
E-mail address: tara.marshall@brunel.ac.uk (T.C. Marshall).
Personality and Individual Differences 85 (2015) 35–40
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Personality and Individual Differences
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/paid
be positively associated with updating about social activities, and
that this association would be mediated by extraverts’ use of
Facebook for communication (Hypothesis 1).
Neuroticism is characterized by anxiety and sensitivity to
threat. Neurotic individuals may use Facebook to seek the atten-
tion and social support that may be missing from their lives offline
(Ross et al., 2009). Accordingly, neuroticism is positively associated
with frequency of social media use (Correa, Hinsley, & de Zuniga,
2010), the use of Facebook for social purposes (Hughes, Rowe,
Batey, & Lee, 2012), and engaging in emotional disclosure on
Facebook, such as venting about personal dramas (Seidman,
2013). Their willingness to disclose about personal topics led us
to predict that neuroticism would be positively associated with
updating about close relationships (romantic partners and/or chil-
dren), and that the selection of these topics would be motivated by
their use of Facebook for validation and self-expression (Hypothesis
2).
People who are high in openness tend to be creative, intellec-
tual, and curious. Openness is positively associated with frequency
of social media use (Correa et al., 2010), and with using Facebook
for finding and disseminating information, but not for socializing
(Hughes et al., 2012). We therefore predicted that openness would
be positively associated with updating about intellectual topics,
and that this association would be mediated by the use of
Facebook for sharing information (Hypothesis 3).
People who are high in agreeableness tend to be cooperative,
helpful, and interpersonally successful. Agreeableness is positively
associated with posting on Facebook to communicate and connect
with others and negatively associated with posting to seek atten-
tion (Seidman, 2013) or to badmouth others (Stoughton,
Thompson, & Meade, 2013). The interpersonal focus of agreeable
people and their use of Facebook for communication may inspire
more frequent updates about their social activities and significant
relationships (Hypothesis 4).
Conscientiousness describes people who are organized, respon-
sible, and hard-working. They tend to use Facebook less frequently
than people who are lower in conscientiousness (Gosling et al.,
2011), but when they do use it, conscientious individuals are dili-
gent and discreet: they have more Facebook friends (Amichai-
Hamburger & Vinitzky, 2010), they avoid badmouthing people
(Stoughton et al., 2013), and they are less likely to post on
Facebook to seek attention or acceptance (Seidman, 2013). Thus,
we predicted that conscientiousness would be positively associ-
ated with updating about inoffensive, ‘‘safe’’ topics (i.e., social
activities and everyday life), which would be mediated by the
lower tendency of using Facebook for validation (Hypothesis 5).
1.2. Self-esteem
People with low self-esteem are more likely to see the advan-
tages of self-disclosing on Facebook rather than in person, but
because their status updates tend to express more negative and
less positive affect, they tend to be perceived as less likeable
(Forest & Wood, 2012). Furthermore, anxiously-attached individu-
als – who tend to have low self-esteem (Campbell & Marshall,
2011) – post more often about their romantic relationship to boost
their self-worth and to refute others’ impressions that their rela-
tionship is poor (Emery, Muise, Dix, & Le, 2014). We therefore
hypothesized that self-esteem would be negatively associated with
updating about a romantic partner, and that this association would
be mediated by the use of Facebook for validation (Hypothesis 6).
1.3. Narcissism
Narcissistic individuals tend to be self-aggrandizing, vain, and
exhibitionistic (Raskin & Terry, 1988). They seek attention and
admiration by boasting about their accomplishments (Buss &
Chiodo, 1991) and take particular care of their physical appearance
(Vazire, Naumann, Rentfrow, & Gosling, 2008). This suggests that
their status updates will more frequently reference their achieve-
ments and their diet and exercise routine (Hypothesis 7).
Moreover, the choice of these topics may be motivated by the
use of status updates to gain validation for inflated self-views, con-
sistent with the positive association of narcissism with the fre-
quency of updating one’s status (Carpenter, 2012), posting more
self-promoting content (Mehdizadeh, 2010), and seeking to attract
admiring friends to one’s Facebook profile (Davenport, Bergman,
Bergman, & Fearrington, 2014).
1.4. Response to status updates
We examined whether people receive differential numbers of
likes and comments to their updates depending on their personal-
ity traits and frequency of writing about various topics. People
with lower self-esteem tend to receive fewer likes and comments
because their status updates express more negative affect (Forest
& Wood, 2012). We tested the possibility that they may also
receive fewer likes and comments because they are more likely
to update about their romantic partner (Hypothesis 8); indeed, peo-
ple who write updates that are high in relationship disclosure are
perceived as less likeable (Emery, Muise, Alpert, & Le, 2015). The
associations of the Big Five traits, narcissism, and the other status
update topics with the number of likes and comments received
were examined on an exploratory basis to shed light on who
may be at risk of receiving less social reward on Facebook, and
whether it is because they express unpopular topics in their
updates.
2. Method
2.1. Participants
Data was collected from 555 Facebook users currently residing
in the United States (59% female; M
age
= 30.90, SD
age
= 9.19). Sixty-
five percent of participants were currently involved in a romantic
relationship, and 34% had at least one child. Fifty-seven percent
checked Facebook on a daily basis, and spent an average of
107.95 min per day actively using it (SD = 121.41). Ninety percent
of participants were recruited through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk
and paid $1.00 in compensation; the rest were recruited through
web forums for online psychology studies, and received no
compensation.
2.2. Materials and procedure
Participants completed an online survey consisting of demo-
graphic questions and the following measures. Cronbach’s alpha
coefficients are reported in Table 1.
2.2.1. Big Five personality traits
The 35-item Berkeley Personality Profile (Harary & Donahue,
1994) measures extroversion, neuroticism, openness, agreeable-
ness, and conscientiousness with 7 items each (1 = Strongly dis-
agree,5=Strongly agree).
2.2.2. Self-esteem
The 10-item Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale (Rosenberg, 1965)
measures self-esteem with items such as ‘‘I feel that I have a num-
ber of good qualities’’ (1 = Strongly disagree,5=Strongly agree).
36 T.C. Marshall et al. / Personality and Individual Differences 85 (2015) 35–40
2.2.3. Narcissism
The 13-item version of the Narcissistic Personality Inventory
(NPI-13; Gentile et al., 2013) is derived from the original NPI-40
(Raskin & Terry, 1988) and measures three components of trait
narcissism: need for leadership/authority, grandiose exhibitionism,
and entitlement/exploitativeness. Items are rated on a forced-
choice basis, such that one choice represents greater narcissism
and the other less. Higher scores indicate greater narcissism.
2.2.4. Facebook use
Participants reported their number of Facebook friends, how
many days of the week they check Facebook (0–7 days), how much
time they spend actively using it on days they check it, and how
frequently they update their Facebook status (1 = Never,9=7–10
times a day).
2.2.5. Topics of status updates
Participants indicated how frequently they write about 20
topics in their Facebook status updates (i.e., verbal descriptions
of their status excluding photos, videos, or emoticons). These
topics were generated by the authors through laboratory group
discussions. Responses were rated on a 5-point Likert scale ranging
from 1 (Never)to5(Very often). To extract common themes across
topics, we conducted principal axis factoring with promax rotation.
This yielded four factors with eigenvalues greater than 1 that
together accounted for 57% of the total variance. Five topics loaded
on the first factor, which reflected social activities and everyday
life (my social activities,something funny that happened to me,my
everyday activities,my pets,sporting events). Four topics loaded on
the second factor, which reflected intellectual themes (my views
on politics,current events,research/science,my own creative output
– e.g., art, writing, research). Three topics loaded on the third factor,
which reflected achievement orientation (achieving my goals,my
accomplishments,work or school). Two topics loaded on the fourth
factor, which reflected diet/exercise (my exercise routine,my diet).
Several topics did not meet Tabachnik and Fidell’s (2007) criteria
that items must have a minimal loading of .32 on a single factor:
three items (my children,my religious beliefs, and quotations or song
lyrics) were below this threshold, and two items cross-loaded (my
travels,my views on TV show, movies, or music). A final topic (my
relationship with my current romantic partner) was not included in
the factor analysis because it was only completed by participants
currently involved in a relationship. Of the topics that did not load
onto one of the four factors, we only further analyzed the fre-
quency of updating about children and romantic partners as single
variables because of our hypotheses regarding the associations of
personality traits with updating about significant relationships.
We also asked participants who they shared each status update
topic with (no one,the public,friends only,close friends only), but
because there was little variation across topics in these privacy set-
tings, we did not examine this variable further.
2.2.6. Motives for using Facebook
We measured four motives for using Facebook by adapting
items from a variety of sources (e.g., Hughes et al., 2012;
Seidman, 2013) so that each began with ‘‘I use Facebook to...’’.
Use of Facebook for validation was measured with seven items that
tapped attention-seeking (e.g., ‘‘I use Facebook to show off’’) and
need to feel accepted and included (e.g., ‘‘I use Facebook to feel
loved’’). Five items measured use of Facebook for self-expression
(e.g., ‘‘I use Facebook to express my identity/opinions’’). Three
items measured use of Facebook to communicate (e.g., ‘‘I use
Facebook to communicate with people I often see’’), and eight
items assessed use of Facebook to find and disseminate informa-
tion (e.g., ‘‘I use Facebook to stay informed’’). Participants indicated
their agreement with these statements using a 1–7 Likert scale
anchored with Strongly disagree (1) and Strongly agree (7).
2.2.7. Likes and comments
Participants indicated how many likes and comments, on aver-
age, they tend to receive when they post a typical Facebook status
update.
3. Results and discussion
Table 1 reports the descriptive statistics and Pearson’s correla-
tions. Table 2 reports the results of regression analyses that exam-
ined the predictors of updating about each of the six topics
Table 1
Means, standard deviations, Cronbach’s alpha coefficients, and Pearson’s correlations.
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18
1. Extraversion
2. Neuroticism .42
3. Openness .22 .07
4. Conscientious .23 .54 .13
5. Agreeable .29 .36 .15 .37
6. Self-esteem .40 .64 .16 .58 .37
7. Narcissism .31 .04 .14 .04 .21 .05
8. Social activity .24 .04 .10
*
.09
*
.13 .06 .03
9. Intellectual .15 .03 .31 .01 .05 .04 .08
.54
10. Achieve .20 .01 .18 .04 .14 .07 .14 .62 .53
11. Diet/exercise .18 .04 .03 .02 .04 .06 .19 .49 .44 .40
12. Romantic .11
*
.05 .03 .01 .01 .05 .05 .46 .21 .36 .34
13. Children .04 .05 .04 .06 .06 .03 .03 .37 .10 .33 .14
.27
14. Validation .14 .14 .01 .09
*
.01 .12 .21 .43 .29 .42 .41 .30 .19
*
15. Expression .16 .06 .15 .04 .02 .06 .14 .54 .49 .50 .41 .27 .16
*
.72
16. Communicate .24 .02 .17 .13 .16 .14 .02 .55 .41 .49 .26 .31 .38 .52 .56
17. Information .23 .02 .24 .12 .13 .13 .06 .52 .55 .49 .31 .27 .16
*
.55 .64 .75
18. Like/comment .18 .13 .01 .14 .19 .10
*
.08
.12 .05 .19 .07 .20 .26 .07 .03 .14 .08
Mean 20.94 19.42 24.79 24.54 24.47 36.85 3.99 11.75 8.18 7.07 3.20 2.46 3.32 20.48 15.79 13.71 33.37 10.53
SD 5.89 5.91 4.83 4.96 4.91 8.79 2.88 3.88 3.17 2.67 1.59 1.17 1.16 9.27 6.88 4.47 11.17 11.81
a
.85 .85 .72 .77 .76 .92 .73 .76 .75 .80 .76 .85 .82 .75 .88
Note. Bolded values were significant at p< .01.
p< .10.
*
p< .05.
T.C. Marshall et al. / Personality and Individual Differences 85 (2015) 35–40 37
(criterion variables), the four motives for using Facebook (mediat-
ing variables), and the number of likes and comments received to a
typical update (criterion variable). Predictors included several con-
trol variables (frequency of updating one’s status, number of
Facebook friends, sex, age) and the traits of interest (Big Five traits,
self-esteem, narcissism). We conducted bootstrap tests of multiple
mediation using Preacher and Hayes’s (2008) SPSS script to assess
whether the motives for using Facebook mediated the associations
of the personality traits with updating about certain topics. In
these tests, the control variables and other personality traits were
entered as covariates, and the four motives for using Facebook
were entered as multiple mediators.
3.1. Predictors of status update topics and motives for using Facebook
Table 2 reveals support for Hypothesis 1: extraversion was pos-
itively associated with updating more frequently about social
activities and everyday life, and with using Facebook to communi-
cate. A further regression analysis showed that the use of Facebook
to communicate predicted the frequency of updating about social
activities and everyday life over and above the control variables
and other personality traits (b= .25, p< .0001). Examination of
the 95% bias-corrected confidence intervals (CI) from 1000 boot-
strap samples revealed that the positive association of extraversion
with updating about social activities and everyday life was medi-
ated by the use of Facebook to communicate (b= .03, p= .05 (CI:
.003–.05)). These results further confirm that extraverts use
Facebook, and specifically status updates, as a tool for social
engagement (Ryan & Xenos, 2011; Seidman, 2013).
Hypothesis 2 was only partially supported: neuroticism was not
associated with updating about any of the six topics or with using
Facebook for self-expression, but it was associated with using
Facebook for validation. Indeed, neurotic individuals may use
Facebook to seek the attention and support that they lack offline
(Ross et al., 2009).
Consistent with Hypothesis 3, openness was positively associ-
ated with updating about intellectual topics, and with using
Facebook for information. A further regression analysis showed
that the use of Facebook for information and for self-expression
predicted the frequency of updating about intellectual topics over
and above the control variables and traits (b= .34, p< .0001 and
b= .22, p< .001, respectively). The bootstrap test revealed that
the positive association of openness with updating about
intellectual topics was indeed mediated by the use of Facebook
for information (b= .03, p< .01 (CI: .007–.05)). People high in open-
ness, then, may write updates about current events, research, or
their political views for the purpose of sharing impersonal infor-
mation rather than for socializing, consistent with the findings of
Hughes et al. (2012).
There was no support for Hypothesis 4 – agreeableness was not
associated with updating more frequently about social activities,
significant relationships, or with using Facebook to communicate.
Contrary to Hypothesis 5, conscientiousness was not associated
with updating about ‘‘safe’’ topics such as social activities and
everyday life; rather, it was associated with writing more frequent
updates about one’s children. Furthermore, conscientiousness was
not negatively associated with using Facebook for validation, but it
was positively associated with using Facebook to share informa-
tion and to communicate. The latter use predicted the frequency
of updating about one’s children over and above the control vari-
ables and personality traits (b= .38, p= .01), but it did not signifi-
cantly mediate the association of conscientiousness with
updating about children. Thus, conscientious individuals may
update about their children for purposes other than communicat-
ing with their friends. Perhaps such updates reflect an indirect
form of competitive parenting.
Consistent with Hypothesis 6, people who were lower in self-
esteem more frequently updated about their current romantic
partner, but they were more likely to use Facebook for self-expres-
sion rather than for validation. That the frequency of updating
about one’s romantic partner was predicted not by the use of
Facebook for self-expression but rather by communication
(b= .24, p= .01) suggests that people with low self-esteem may
have other motives for posting updates about their romantic part-
ner. Considering that people with low self-esteem tend to be more
chronically fearful of losing their romantic partner (Murray,
Gomillian, Holmes, & Harris, 2015), and that people are more likely
to post relationship-relevant information on Facebook on days
when they feel insecure (Emery et al., 2014), it is reasonable to sur-
mise that people with low self-esteem update about their partner
as a way of laying claim to their relationship when it feels
threatened.
In line with Hypothesis 7, narcissism was positively associated
with updating about achievements and with using Facebook for
validation. Moreover, the use of Facebook for validation and for
communication predicted the frequency of updating about
Table 2
Standardized regression coefficients for the predictors of status update topics, motives for using Facebook, and number of likes/comments.
Predictor
variables
Topics (criterion variables) Motives for using Facebook (mediating variables) Number likes/
comments (criterion
variable)
Social
activities/
everyday life
Intellect Achieve Diet/
exercise
Romantic
partner
(N= 372)
Children
(N= 188)
Validation Self-
express
Communicate Information
Frequency update .60 .46 .42 .27 .30 .30 .31 .48 .38 .42 .09
*
Number of friends .03 .03 .12
**
.02 .07 .03 .11
*
.08
.15
**
.17 .29
Sex .06 .03 .14
**
.04 .04 .19
*
.01 .06 .20 .08
.17
**
Age .05 .04 .19 .02 .12
*
.19
*
.01 .04 .01 .01 .03
Extraversion .14
**
.04 .05 .11
.11 .02 .05 .04 .14
**
.11
*
.07
Neuroticism .02 .04 .06 .03 .09 .02 .18
**
.01 .05 .10 .01
Openness .01 .29 .12
**
.02 .04 .01 .06 .06 .06 .12
*
.05
Conscientiousness .08
.05 .02 .01 .06 .23
*
.02 .02 .11
*
.11
*
.07
Agreeableness .03 .03 .07 .02 .04 .10 .02 .01 .01 .02 .06
Self-esteem .05 .04 .03 .11
.17
*
.19 .05 .13
*
.01 .01 .07
Narcissism .01 .03 .14
**
.17
**
.06 .06 .22 .13
**
.02 .02 .15
**
R
2
.43 .35 .35 .14 .14 .21 .21 .31 .31 .32 .21
Note. Bolded values were significant at p< .001.
Sex: female = 1, male = 1.
p< .10.
*
p< .05.
**
p< .01.
38 T.C. Marshall et al. / Personality and Individual Differences 85 (2015) 35–40
achievements over and above the control variables and traits
(b= .14, p= .02 and b= .13, p= .04, respectively). The association
of narcissism with updating about achievements was significantly
mediated by the use of Facebook for validation (b= .04, p= .05 (CI:
.006–.07)), consistent with narcissists’ tendency to boast in order
to gain attention (Buss & Chiodo, 1991). Also consistent with
Hypothesis 7, narcissism was positively associated with updating
about diet/exercise, but the use of Facebook for self-expression
rather than validation was positively associated with updating
about diet/exercise over and above the control variables and traits
(b= .24, p< .01). Self-expression mediated the association of nar-
cissism with updating about diet/exercise (b= .03, p= .03 (CI:
.003–.04)), suggesting that narcissists may broadcast their diet
and exercise routine to express the personal importance they place
on physical appearance (Vazire et al., 2008).
3.2. Predictors of likes and comments received
As seen in Table 2, there was no support for Hypothesis 8: nar-
cissism rather than self-esteem was associated with receiving a
greater number of likes and comments to one’s updates. We then
assessed whether the four topics common to the entire sample –
social activities and everyday life, intellectual pursuits, achieve-
ments, and diet/exercise – predicted the number of likes and com-
ments typically received to an update over and above the control
variables and traits. Updating about social activities and everyday
life was positively associated with the number of likes and com-
ments received (b= .13, p= .05), as was achievements (b= .16,
p= .01), whereas updating about intellectual topics was negatively
associated (b=.13, p= .04). Two additional regression models
added the frequency of updating about one’s romantic partner or
one’s children as predictors for participants who had a relationship
partner or children. Only the frequency of updating about one’s
children significantly predicted likes/comments (b= .23, p= .02).
Bootstrap mediation revealed that the tendency for narcissists
to report receiving more likes and comments was mediated by
their higher frequency of updating about their achievements
(b= .06, p< .01 (CI: .01–.18)). Thus, narcissists’ publicizing of their
achievements appeared to be positively reinforced by the attention
and validation they crave.
3.3. Limitations and future directions
The main limitation of this study is that it was based on par-
ticipants’ self-reported Facebook behavior. Narcissists, in particu-
lar, may not accurately report the number of likes and
comments they receive to updates. More objective and precise
estimates can be obtained in future research by coding partici-
pants’ actual status updates for topic themes and recording the
number of likes and comments received to each topic. Another
avenue for future research is to obtain direct evaluations of par-
ticular status update topics and of the likeability of people who
update about these topics. That updating about social activities,
achievements, and children was positively associated with
Facebook attention, and updating about intellectual topics nega-
tively associated, suggests that the former topics might be eval-
uated more positively than the latter. Yet these associations are
at best a proxy for the likeability of these topics and of the indi-
viduals who write them. Considering that objective raters can
accurately discern whether a person is narcissistic by looking
at their Facebook page (Buffardi & Campbell, 2008), people
may be correctly perceived as narcissistic if they more frequently
update about their achievements, diet, and exercise.
Furthermore, people may like and comment on a friend’s
achievement-related updates to show support, but may secretly
dislike such displays of hubris. The closeness of the friendship
is therefore likely to influence responses to updates: close
friends may ‘‘like’’ a friend’s update, even if they do not actually
like it, whereas acquaintances might not only ignore such
updates, but eventually unfriend the perpetrator of unlikeable
status updates.
4. Conclusions
Taken together, these results help to explain why some
Facebook friends write status updates about the party they went
to on the weekend whereas others write about a book they just
read or about their job promotion. It is important to understand
why people write about certain topics on Facebook insofar as the
response they receive may be socially rewarding or exclusionary.
Greater awareness of how one’s status updates might be perceived
by friends could help people to avoid topics that annoy more than
they entertain.
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40 T.C. Marshall et al. / Personality and Individual Differences 85 (2015) 35–40
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