Senior Researches Social Media’s Impact on Personalities

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Senior Researches Social Media’s Impact on Personalities

Bryce Allen is researching the connection between social media and personality traits for his senior honors thesis.

Bryce Allen is researching the connection between social media and personality traits for his senior honors thesis.

Courtesy of Bryce Allen

Bryce Allen is researching the connection between social media and personality traits for his senior honors thesis.

Courtesy of Bryce Allen

Courtesy of Bryce Allen

Bryce Allen is researching the connection between social media and personality traits for his senior honors thesis.

Sarah Huffman, Assistant News Editor

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Bryce Allen, FCRH ’20, is in the middle of completing his senior honors thesis project about the use of social media and its impact on people’s personalities.

The goal of Allen’s study is to understand the specific role of social media usage and followers in the relationship between personality traits and well-being, especially given the pervasiveness of social media use in young adults’ everyday lives, he said.

Allen said he originally became involved in research at Fordham in the spring of his sophomore year through Assistant Professor of Psychology, Lindsay Hoyt, Ph.D, Hoyt’s lab studies youth development, diversities and disparities.

Last spring, Allen was invited to join the psychology honors program, which requires its participants to complete a senior honors thesis. He said he spent the rest of last semester trying to determine where his interests lie within the field of psychology and what he wanted to research.

“I have always found people’s behaviors on social media to be very interesting, especially in a time where social media seems to impact all different facets of life,” he said.

Allen said he was specifically interested in the impact that social media has on people’s lives and personalities. He said he believes that you can learn a lot about someone by understanding their personality traits.

He found literature suggesting there was a link between social media use and psychological well-being, as well as social media usage and personality traits.

“There seemed to be an established link between psychological well-being and personality traits,” he said.

He said he began to wonder if anyone had tried to connect self-esteem, anxiety and depression, the big-five personality traits (openness to experience, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and neuroticism), and social media use (i.e., time spent on social media).

Over the summer, he reviewed the literature relating to his research to fine-tune his project. He also applied for an undergraduate research grant which he found out he received at the beginning of October.

“This took a great deal of time because it required me to make sense of the literature relating to these topics, as well as, developing my research questions and hypotheses,” he said.

Allen has since applied for Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval and created the survey for his study.

He plans to go live with the survey this month.

Allen said he will run his study on Amazon Mechanical Turk (MTurk), which is a crowdsourcing marketplace where you can pay people to complete your survey. He aims to recruit approximately 180 participants.

“I chose to run my survey on MTurk because it would allow me to recruit a much more diverse sample, compared to just recruiting Fordham students,” he said. “I will use all of the undergraduate research grants to pay participants to complete my survey.”

Allen has two hypotheses he is testing with this project. The first relates to a connection between personality and well-being.

“[A person] low on extraversion, openness to experience, or neuroticism will likely report worse psychological well being if they spend more time on social media,” Allen said.

The latter half of the hypothesis states the opposite.

“The association between personality and well-being will be moderated by a number of social media followers. Specifically, higher levels of extraversion and conscientiousness will be associated with greater psychological well-being, especially for those with a higher real friends ratio,” the second hypothesis states.

The real “friends ratio” is the number of friends on a specific social media account divided by the number of friends in real life.

“I hope that I find my hypotheses to be correct and that these findings can help us better understand the impact social media has on our lives,” he said. “I believe that as the social media landscape continues to grow and evolve, it is vital to understand the implications it has on development.”

Going forward, Allen plans to go live with his survey and collect data. Next semester, he will analyze the data and see if his hypotheses are correct. He plans to present his findings at the Fordham Undergraduate Research Symposium next April.