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How many friends do you have on Facebook? The question is often asked with the idea that the number of friends on the social network gives information about the psychology of the person. Having a lot of friends is suspect because it is interpreted as an excessive need to show off. Not having one is just as problematic as it can indicate a person who is isolated and unable to nurture social relationships. But what exactly do the number of friends we have on Facebook say?

Australian researchers evaluated the uses of Facebook with personality factors. They used the “Five Factor Model” which is widely used in international research and added the personality traits Self-Esteem, Loneliness, and Narcissism. Online questionnaires were completed by psychology students and the data collected was statistically processed.

The study shows that only one personality trait is positively associated with the use of Facebook. Students who score high on “Openness to Experience” tend to spend more time on Facebook. For each point gained on this personality trait, the time spent on Facebook is multiplied by 1.20! Openness to experience is also associated with the number of friends. People who score high on the Loneliness trait also tend to have more friends than others. No significant relationship was found between the uses of Facebook and the traits Neuroticism, Self-esteem, and Narcissism.

These results are counterintuitive. Having a predisposition to doubt and negative emotions, having low self-esteem, or having a tendency to exaggerate one’s own worth is not a predictor of the number of friends on Facebook. This can be explained in two different ways. People who are open to the experience tend to see more friends because they are curious and hungry for diversity. Lone people achieve the same results because Facebook gives them the social connections they need that they can’t find in the offline world.

Source : Skues, Jason L, Ben Williams, and Lisa Wise. “The effects of personality traits, self-esteem, loneliness, and narcissism on Facebook use among university students.” Computers in Human Behavior 28.6 (2012) : 2414-2419.

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