Facebook Doesn’t Always Make You Lonely

Your social media experience depends on your personality

Jessica Wildfire


Photo by Becca Tapert on Unsplash

You’ve probably heard the popular arguments against social media. It encourages fake interaction over real conversation. Over time, we stop talking to each other at dinner. We stop treating each other as humans. We compare ourselves to each other constantly. A date, for example, no longer involves courtship. Why flirt with someone when you can swipe on them?

Some of these arguments make sense. We’ve gotten a little lazy when it comes to socializing.

A few months ago, a former writing student messaged for advice about publishing, and I didn’t respond right away. A few hours later, she sent a new message: “Okay. I see how it is. I’m not important. Enjoy your fucking vacation.”

I wrote back offering to set up a meeting over email. Meanwhile, I suggested, we should probably stop interacting on social media. She apologized profusely, but the damage was done. When you drop an F-Bomb on someone, they never forget.

Since then, I’ve stopped using Facebook to keep up with my friends and colleagues. Disabled notifications. Deleted Messenger on my phone. My life has improved dramatically. But I still use Twitter, and I have no plans to kill the app. Why?

Personality Type Matters on Social Media

Psychologists have studied social media ever since the first tweet. Authors like Nicholas Carr and Sherry Turkle have criticized these platforms for draining our humanity. They’re partly right. They’ve done a helluva lot more research than me, so I can’t dispute them.

But the latest round of studies on social media does a better job accounting for personality type. Not everyone reacts to Instagram the same way. Sure, plenty of people do just what the critics describe — their social skills deflate, and they turn into wallflowers at parties.

Others don’t share that experience. It’s almost like we’re immune to some of these side effects. Newer psychological studies link online behavior to social traits. For example, psychologist Chia-chen Yang at the University of Memphis uses Festinger’s theory of social comparison orientation (SCO) to explain why some people…