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New Facebook study shows that true mindsets cannot be hidden from aggregate data

Facebook study finds that over time, aggregate data can make your very well manicured status updates more transparent than you might think.
Facebook study finds that over time, aggregate data can make your very well manicured status updates more transparent than you might think.
Joan Vicent Canto Roig via Getty Images

The Atlantic published an article Aug. 18 about another sociological study that is being run through Facebook. This study was started by a group of scientists from the University of Pennsylvania who call themselves The World Well-Being Project. The group uses aggregate data, gleaned from social media updates from all over the world, to survey different age, social and gender groups. The Well-Being Project’s on-going analyses and findings are surprising and on point in finding commonalities with many different mindsets.

Initially, the group of scientists had set out to “gauge happiness across various states and communities.” It turns out that multiple governments have become increasingly interested in measuring populations’ state of well-being. Since traditional surveys of the kind of scale that is needed to acquire proper amounts of data for these projects are extremely expensive, the group of scientists turned to social media.

The World Well-Being Project’s website states that it aims to find ways to measure “psychological and physical well-being of large populations by analyzing their written expressions in social media such as Facebook and Twitter.” This may cause some alarm, since we’ve already received news that monitoring of our accounts often happens without the option for saying yes or no for the sake of sociological studies and experiments. However, in this case, participation in the sociological study is voluntary, news reports.

In order to participate, Facebook users must download an app called My Personality. When participants begin using the app, they are given a standard personality test, which then gives way to their Facebook status updates being added to a data pool and analyzed. Approximately 75,000 people have volunteered, so far.

Though you may be painstaking in your efforts of curating your own Facebook page in order to portray a certain image of yourself, and while up front, you may very well do that, it was found that over time, “the things we say on social media paint a fairly accurate portrait of our inner selves.” Apparently, such insights cannot be hidden under the scope of data collection and analyses.

The World Well-Being Project has published six studies which prove a certain transparency that can be seen over time. One example that is in the news compares words used by introverts and extroverts.

The comparison showed that introverts were more prone to use emoticons and words that relate to activities done in solitude like reading, drawing and using computers. Anime related words such as Pokemon appeared more frequently than most. Extroverts were more prone to use words and phrases related to social events or references such as “party,” “bestie,” and “hit me up.”

Examples listed were shown as wordclouds. There are marked differences between the introvert and extrovert wordclouds. The neurotic wordcloud featured words that were harsh and marked by “depression, loneliness, worry, and psychosomatic symptom words. Words categorized in the emotional stability wordcloud were marked by words of positivity, faith and a full and active life.

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