Do you like to strut your stuff when it comes to social media or do you have a tendency to get involved in protracted Twitter debates? Maybe you prefer to stay completely under the radar or hang on the fringes?
Those are just some of the dozen distinct personalities revealed by a research project investigating the extent of the influence of social media in people’s lives.
The survey, conducted by online bank First Direct, found that social media, and the technology we use to access it, could be changing our personalities in quite fundamental ways as some of us exhibit traits very different on social networks to those that we have in the real world.
Dr David Giles, a reader in media psychology at Winchester University, who helped analyse the findings said that mobile devices in particularly have had a big impact not just on the amount of time we spend using social networks but on our personalities.
“Smartphones have made accessing social media platforms much easier, with the result that many people spend a lot more time chatting with friends in cyberspace than they do face to face or over the phone. That can change their relationships with people and, as we are now seeing, it can also change their personalities,” said Giles.
The different personalities, and the lengths that some go to protect their privacy and hide their identity, explains in part some of the things that people feel free to say on social networks like Twitter and Facebook that they might not say in the real world.
A perfect example of that was the recent story about online Twitter troll @Jimmyob88 who sent a stream of abuse to boxer Curtis Woodhouse. Woodhouse took the situation into his own hands and offered a £1,000 reward to anybody who could give him @Jimmyob88’s identity and address.
He then tracked down the troll and drove to his house and tweeted a picture of the troll’s street sign. The arrival of the real world at his social media doorstep led @Jimmyob88 to quickly fold and tweet: “I am sorry it’s getting out of hand I am in the wrong I accept that”. Woodhouse wisely took the upper ground and let the matter go.
First Direct is using the increased understanding of how people use the likes of Facebook and Twitter to help it develop new online customer service initiatives.
Rebecca Dye, social media manager at First Direct, said it’s important that the bank is aware of how people “behave very differently in social media to how they behave in the real world” when it’s dealing with customers through a variety of channels.
The twelve personality types
The Ultras – They are fanatically obsessed with Facebook or Twitter. They have smartphone apps and check their feeds dozens of times a day – even when at work. The survey revealed 14 per cent of Facebook users spend at least two hours a day on the network – rising to one in five (21 per cent) of 18 to 24-year-olds.
The Deniers – They claim social media doesn’t control their lives, but the reality is very different. If they cannot access their favourite network they can become anxious and feel ‘isolated’. In the survey, 20 per cent of Facebook users said they would feel “anxious” or “isolated” if they had to deactivate their accounts, compared to 17 per cent of Twitter users.
The Dippers – Although more than half the UK population is signed up to Facebook or Twitter, not all are regular users. ‘Dippers’ access their pages infrequently, often going days – or even weeks – without tweeting or posting an update. More than 30 per cent of Facebook and Twitter users access the sites for less than 30 minutes a day.
The Virgins – New people who sign up to social networks may struggle initially to get to grips with the workings of Facebook and Twitter, but they may go on to become Ultras. More than 1.7 million people in the UK signed up to Facebook in 2012.
The Lurkers – Hiding in the shadows of cyberspace, they rarely participate in social media conversations – often because they worry about having nothing interesting to say. In the survey, 45 per cent of Facebook users described themselves as ‘observers’, compared to 39 per cent of Twitter users.
The Peacocks – They are easily recognised because they love to show everyone how popular they are. They compete with friends for followers or fans, or how many ‘likes’ or re-tweets they get. More than one in ten (11 per cent) of Twitter users say it is important for them to have more ‘followers’ on their feed than their friends.
The Ranters – Meek and mild in face-to-face conversation, they are highly opinionated online. Social media allows them to have strong opinions without worrying how others will react. 11 per cent of Facebook users and 17 per cent of Twitter users say the networks allow them to be more opinionated than they are otherwise.
The Ghosts – Some in social media are worried about giving out personal information to strangers, so they create usernames to stay anonymous or have noticeably sparse profiles and timelines. ‘Security’ is cited as a reason for not using their real names by 15 per cent of Twitter users and six per cent of Facebook users.
The Changelings – For some people, being anonymous isn’t enough. They also adopt very different personalities, confident in the knowledge that no-one knows their real identity. Around five per cent of Facebook and Twitter users say hiding their identities in social media allows them more freedom to express their opinions.
The Quizzers – ‘Quizzers’ like to ask questions on Facebook and Twitter in order to start conversations and avoid the risk of being left out. According to the first direct survey, around one in ten Facebook and Twitter users say they enjoy using their pages to ask questions, rather than just posting messages or updates.
The Informers – Information is currency in social media. Being the first to spot something interesting and share it earns kudos and – just as importantly – more followers and fans. One in five (20 per cent) of Twitter users and 22 per cent of Facebook users say they like to share information and links with their friends and followers.
The Approval-seekers – They worry about how many likes/comments/re-tweets they get, constantly checking their feeds and timelines, because they link endorsement to popularity. One in seven (14 per cent) of Facebook users say it is important others ‘like’ or reply to their updates, versus nine per cent of Twitter users who say replies and re-tweets are important.