In turn, the users themselves -- all between the ages of 17 and 22 -- underwent multiple personality tests. In addition, four "well-acquainted friends" of each of the American Facebook users were also asked to describe their friend's true personality.
Gathering all this information, the researchers then generated their own accurate and idealized personality profiles for each user, which they then stacked up against each member's online profile.
Bottom-line: Gosling and his colleagues found no evidence that the people were using their social network profiles to promote idealized personalities. In fact, the research suggests that the apparent accuracy of member postings could explain why the sites have exploded in popularity.
"I think that being able to express personality accurately contributes to the popularity of online social networks in two ways," Gosling said. "First, it allows profile owners to let others know who they are and, in doing so, satisfies a basic need to be known by others. Second, it means that profile viewers feel they can trust the information they glean from online social network profiles, building their confidence in the system as a whole."
"It's possible, of course, that people are actually trying to spin a positive view of themselves but simply not succeeding. But frankly, I don't think there's a lot of people who try that," Gosling added. "Because if I'm an introvert who wants people to think I'm a sensation seeker who swims with sharks, it's not a simple matter. And people understand that. I mean, I would have to go and get a pic of me swimming with sharks. And even if I did, my friends who know me would know I never swim with sharks, so who am I fooling? And that's, in fact, one of the great things about Facebook. There's accountability with our friends."
Laura Freberg, a professor of psychology at Californ
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