Addicted To Social Media? Blame Your Personality, Researchers Say

BINGHAMTON, N.Y. — Addicted to social media and can’t figure out why? A new study finds that the culprit may be a sneaky combination of certain personality characteristics.

Researchers at Binghamton University recently surveyed nearly 300 college students, hoping to see whether excessive social media use — much like alcoholism and drug abuse — could be tied to any of the “Big Five” personality traits.

Social media apps on smartphone
Researchers say that three of the classic five dimensions of personality — neuroticism, conscientiousness, and agreeableness — are correlated with social media addiction.

They found that three of the classic five dimensions of personality — neuroticism, conscientiousness, and agreeableness — were correlated with social media addiction, although not all dimensions lent similar or equal effects.

“There has been plenty of research on how the interaction of certain personality traits affects addiction to things like alcohol and drugs,” explains Isaac Vaghefi, an assistant professor of management information systems at Binghamton, in a university release. “We wanted to apply a similar framework to social networking addiction.”

High levels of neuroticism, for instance, had a strong positive correlation with developing a dependency on social platforms, while high levels of conscientiousness had the inverse effect. Interestingly, being very neurotic could cancel out any benefits from also being very conscientious, the researchers noted, allowing an otherwise self-disciplined individual to fall to the allure of notifications.

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Finally, agreeableness was not linked to abnormal social media usage on its own, but could be when combined with outlier levels (i.e., high or low) of conscientiousness.

While it’s easy to deem superusers “addicts,” many of the influencers around us are “addicted” for good reason: they use social media to better develop and maintain relationships with friends and followers.  

In other words, what appears to be an ugly habit may actually a prosocial behavior for some.

All in all, the researchers hope that their study helps onlookers better grasp the social media landscape, which starts with understanding the role that personality traits play.

“It’s more of a holistic approach to discover what kind of people are more likely to develop an addiction,” says Vaghefi. “Rather than just focusing on one personality trait, this allows you to look at an all-inclusive personality profile.”

Vaghefi et al. presented their findings in a paper titled “Personality Predictors of IT Addiction,” at the 51st Hawaii International Conference on Systems Science in January.

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