Twitter Extroverts

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CATEGORY: Academics
TYPE: Articles
RELATED PROGRAMS: Psychology

I tweet, therefore I am . . . outgoing? That’s what most Twitter readers concluded, found Ethan Cline ’13.

With millions of us Tweeting these days, what kind of image of ourselves are we presenting to the world through our tweets? A more outgoing one than actually exists, found Ethan Cline ’13 (Minneapolis).

In research he did for his psychology capstone project, Cline discovered that subjects were not accurately able to determine Twitter users’ true personalities when compared against the self-reported personalities of those same Twitter users.

That distinguishes Twitter users from Facebook users, says Cline. In earlier research done on Facebook users, research subjects who read those postings were better able to gauge the authors’ actual personalities.

Why the difference between the two social media platforms? “The major structural differences between Twitter and Facebook have a large impact on personality prediction,” says Cline. Twitter, confined to 140 characters per tweet, “has a much more minimalistic design that doesn’t allow for sharing of long bodies of text, photos, etc., in a meticulously archived fashion like Facebook does.”

Because Twitter users so regularly put out information about themselves, their lives, and their opinions, subjects concluded that they are more outgoing than they actually are.

Cline believes that because Twitter users so regularly put out information about themselves, their lives, and their opinions, subjects concluded that they are more outgoing than they actually are.

Just to add to the confusion, there’s this: Although subjects weren’t able to accurately predict tweeters’ personalities, they were able to predict a consistent personality for each Twitter user.

Cline concludes, not surprisingly, that much more research needs to be done on all social media platforms—especially Twitter. “The field of psychology is relatively slow-paced when it comes to research on new technologies, and social media platforms are no exception,” says Cline, “Yet social media has become a huge part of how individuals interact with one another, so it should be an important topic for psychological research.”

Cline himself won’t be further pursuing that topic any time soon, however, since the psychology and Japanese major spent the spring semester studying at Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan.

Meanwhile, he continues to tweet himself. “I find it’s an informative, engaging, and ultimately enjoyable experience to use Twitter,” he says. “Twitter users are forced to pack a lot of meaning into a meager 140 characters.”

PUBLISHED: 06/07/2012