An Examination of the Five Factor Model Personality Traits as Predictors of Online Social Network Use

Date of Completion

January 2011


Psychology, Personality|Web Studies|Mass Communications




Widespread use of online social networks has made them a prominent form of media for many consumers. The variety of features available to users has bridged the gap between an interpersonal and mass communication medium, allowing users to perform both functions. This analysis examines users of social network sites and considers whether psychological traits play a role in their media use, and the gratifications they may attain while on these sites. The analysis uses traditional uses and gratification categorizations, as well as medium-specific categorizations. With major social network sites offering similar features, categorizations can be made based on a feature's general function. Deviating from previous studies, this analysis also examines the use of social network site features dependent on the role of the user. It is believed that the gratifications attained from online social networks will be dependent on the role the user plays in the communication. ^ Results of this analysis suggest that certain uses and gratifications attained by social network sites can be predicted by psychological traits. Canonical correlation analysis offers further structure in our understanding of these relationships. Findings from this analysis suggest that Conscientious people are less likely use social networks sites to pass time or for habitual use. As suggested by the facets of Extraversion, people high in this trait were more likely to use social network sites for information expression. While predicting certain media uses, the roles of Openness to Experience, Agreeableness and Neuroticism in predicting uses of social network sites is less clear. While Neuroticism has been the strongest predictor of media use for other communication mediums, results of this analysis did not find this to be true for online social networks. ^ When distinguishing the role of the user as either a source or receiver of information, results of this research question suggest that users of social network site differ in their use of features dependent on role. As such, future uses and gratifications studies should consider wording questions in a way that they can distinguish the user's role in the communication. ^