These Personality Traits Could Put You At Risk for Social Media Addiction

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Whether it's scrolling through Instagram or constantly refreshing your Facebook feed, social media can eat up hours of your day. But if you find it particularly hard to stay away from social media, your personality may be partly to blame.

According to a new study, people with certain personality traits are more likely to develop a social media addiction.

"There has been plenty of research on how the interaction of certain personality traits affects addiction to things like alcohol and drugs," study co-author Isaac Vaghefi, an assistant professor of information systems at Binghamton University in New York state, said in a statement. But relatively few studies have looked at how personality traits may affect tech addiction, including addiction to social media, the researchers said. [7 Signs Your Child Is an iPad Addict]

In the new study, the researchers surveyed about 300 college students to assess their personality and gauge their level of addiction to the social media site each individual used most frequently. (Questions to measure social media addiction included: "I sometimes neglect important things because of my interest in this social networking website"; "When I am not using this social networking website, I often feel agitated"; and "I have made unsuccessful attempts to reduce the time I interact with this social networking website.")

The study found that three personality traits in particular — neuroticism, conscientiousness and agreeableness — were related to social media addiction. Two other personality traits, extraversion and openness to experience, weren't linked with social media addiction.

Specifically, the researchers found that people with high levels of neuroticism, or the tendency to experience negative emotions such as stress and anxiety, were more likely to develop addiction to social media, compared with people who had low levels of neuroticism.

In contrast, people with high levels of conscientiousness, or the tendency to have impulse control and a strong drive to achieve specific goals, were less likely to develop addiction to social media.

However, the researchers noted that even people with high conscientiousness could be prone to social media addiction if they were also high in neuroticism. This may be because high levels of stress and anxiousness could override a person's perceived control over their social media use, the researchers said.

In addition, the trait of agreeableness — or the degree to which someone is friendly, empathetic and helpful — by itself had no effect on social media addiction. But this was not true when the researchers looked at agreeableness in combination with conscientiousness.

They found that people with low levels of both agreeableness and conscientiousness were more likely to develop social media addiction than people with average levels of these personality traits. But surprisingly, people with high levels of both of these personality traits were also more likely to develop social network addiction, compared to people with average levels of the two traits.

It's possible that people who have high levels of both agreeableness and conscientiousness make a conscious decision to use social networks more, in order to help their friendships flourish, the researchers said.

It's important to note that because the study involved a few hundred college students at a single university, more research is needed to confirm the findings, the researchers said. But they added that the findings could have implications for those who treat tech addictions.

"Our findings explain that users with higher levels of IT addictions may not be considered as one homogeneous group of users, as different personality traits can play different roles in users' dispositions toward IT addiction," the researchers wrote in their paper, which was presented in January at the 51st Hawaii International Conference on Systems Science.

Vaghefi added that he hopes the findings will encourage people to look at the "whole picture" of how personality traits affect tech addiction, "rather than just focusing on one personality trait" at a time.

Original article on Live Science.

Rachael Rettner

Rachael is a Live Science contributor, and was a former channel editor and senior writer for Live Science between 2010 and 2022. She has a master's degree in journalism from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting Program. She also holds a B.S. in molecular biology and an M.S. in biology from the University of California, San Diego. Her work has appeared in Scienceline, The Washington Post and Scientific American.