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Honesty Among Facebook Users?
By: Jeff Louis
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I just finished re-reading Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner's Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything, and the authors have a section about online dating sites and how those looking for love online have varying experiences depending on various factors.

For instance, 56% of the men who post on a dating site do not receive a single e-mail. Women on dating sites fare much better, with 79% receiving at least one e-mail (21% do not get any). The interesting part about dating sites (E-Harmony, Match.com, etc) is some of the exaggeration that goes on: Men are richer, women are taller, and people describe themselves as looking "better than average," The takeaway is that dating-site profiles are more apt to be embellished. 

This raises the question: Do people tend to lie in their social media profiles, or are they accurate?

Surprisingly, they are dead-on accurate. According to a study conducted by Sam Gosling at the University of Texas, profiles on social networks express true personality traits rather than a virtual, ideal identity. A preview of the study was published on Science Daily earlier this month. 

The research conducted by a team of researchers in the United States and Germany uses a base of 236 profiles of college-aged individuals on social networks Facebook (U.S.), StudiVZ, and SchuelerVZ (Germany). The research points to online social networks as being a means of communication and interaction rather than a means to make oneself look more important, richer, better, etc. The research was gathered using a set of questionnaires to assess a profile owner's true personality and ideal personality versus what they listed on the social site. Measured facets of the studied personalities included:

  • extraversion
  • agreeableness
  • conscientiousness
  • neuroticism
  • openness

Gosling explains further why social media casts the net with the highest success rate.

"I think that being able to express personality accurately contributes to the popularity of online social networks in two ways," says Gosling. "First, it allows profile owners to let others know who they are and, in doing so, [it] 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."

The full study will be available in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. Despite the claims by dating sites that they use "29 dimensions of compatibility" or that they'll provide a six-month guarantee, your best bet is Facebook. Who would have thought? 


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About the Author

Jeff Louis: Media Planner, Brand Project Manager, blogger, and aspiring writer. Please leave a comment or get in touch with Jeff on Twitter. As always, thank you for reading!

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