Personality is one of the most studied areas of psychology, and it has been applied to many aspects such as employment, emotion and behaviour. Conversely, internet usage is so new that it’s barely been researched. But there are some studies out there around it, and some of those studies look at how personality affects internet usage. Here are six interesting findings that have come out of this research.
1 – High neuroticism is related to more social media use, but overall less internet use
Neuroticism is an interesting personality trait in relation to its relationship with internet usage. It also serves as a good example of why “internet usage” might be too broad a term. Correa, Hinsley and de Zuniga (2010) looked at how neuroticism related specifically to social media usage (for example, blog use or Facebook). They found that those with higher scores of neuroticism also had higher levels of use of these types of social media. Interestingly however, Tuten and Bosnjuk (2001) found that overall those with higher neuroticism scores actually used the internet less. This shows that it may be useful to look at how personality effects usage of specific types of websites.
2 – Introverts use the internet more and with more intensely, but extroverts use Facebook more
The research on how introverts v. extroverts use the internet also presents a similar message to that on neuroticism. It was found by Landers and Lounsbury (2006) that introversion was related to more internet usage, and more intense internet usage. However in a separate study, rather interestingly, it was found that extroverts used Facebook more (Correa et al, 2010). This is probably due to the more social, conversational aspect of Facebook.
3 – Use of new online services is positively related to openness for experience
The research on how openness to experience is related to internet usage is fairly new and limited, however there are a couple of studies that look at the relationship between this personality trait and internet usage. The research has mainly looked at information searching, and newer forms of internet. For example, Correa et al (2010) found that openness to experience was positively related to usage of “new” internet resources, such as Facebook and blogs. This relationship was however moderated by how much new information was available on the site, if there was more information, then the relationship between openness to experience and usage of the site was stronger. This again shows the need to look at more specific relationships, as opposed to just general internet usage and personality traits.
4 – Agreeableness is negatively related to internet usage, and is stable online and offline
There hasn’t been much research done into the relationship between agreeableness and internet usage. There has been a couple of studies but not many, and there has also been research into whether personality traits are stable online and offline, which has included some interesting findings about agreeableness. Mikami et al (2010) looked at both of these lines of research in their study. They found that agreeableness was negatively related with overall internet usage, meaning those with higher agreeableness used internet less. Interestingly, agreeableness seemed to be the only personality trait which was very stable, meaning those who were high in agreeableness offline also where in their online behaviour.
5 – Conscientiousness has a negative relationship with internet usage and addiction
One aspect of internet usage which may be particularly problematic is that of internet addiction. Internet addiction refers to a harmful overuse of the internet, which causes distress or interferes with the sufferer’s life in some way. It is the extreme end of internet usage. Landers and Lounsbury (2006) found that internet usage was negatively related to conscientiousness, so those who were more conscientious used the internet less. Furthermore, Li et al (2006) also found a negative relationship between higher conscientiousness and internet addiction. Therefore it seems that having higher levels of conscientiousness results in lower internet usage.
In conclusion, it seems all of the Big Five personality traits are in some way related to internet usage. It’s important to remember however most of these studies are purely correlational and won’t be true for everyone.
Correa, T., Hinsley, A. W., & De Zuniga, H. G. (2010). Who interacts on the Web?: The intersection of users’ personality and social media use.Computers in Human Behavior, 26(2), 247-253.
Cronbach, L. J., & Snow, R. E. (1977). Aptitudes and instructional methods: A handbook for research on interactions. Irvington.
Landers, R. N., & Lounsbury, J. W. (2006). An investigation of Big Five and narrow personality traits in relation to Internet usage. Computers in Human Behavior, 22(2), 283-293.
Li, S. M., & Chung, T. M. (2006). Internet function and Internet addictive behavior. Computers in Human Behavior, 22(6), 1067-1071.
Mikami, A. Y., Szwedo, D. E., Allen, J. P., Evans, M. A., & Hare, A. L. (2010). Adolescent peer relationships and behavior problems predict young adults’ communication on social networking websites. Developmental psychology, 46(1), 46.
Tuten, TL., & Bosnjak, M., (2001). Understanding differences in web usage: The role of need for cognition and the five factor model of personality. Social Behavior and Personality: an international journal 29 (4), 391-398.