Does Social Media Transcend Personality?
A while back I conducted a very informal little study over the course of several days. This informal study of MBTI, Dunbar numbers and Twitter follower and following counts was meant to be a stepping stone to further studies I plan to do. To that end, I flew a bit fast and loose with the controls and parameters – I wanted to keep it simple and see where the numbers led me for launching future analysis.
My basic premise, and the reason for the data collection, was a belief that unregulated social media tools such as Twitter would allow people to transcend personality if they were naturally introverted and enhance personality if naturally extroverted. I also wanted to see if personality had any correlation to social interactive limits, such as the theory of the Dunbar number (A theory I think is bunk, by the way – most personal networks far exceed the Dunbar number of 150. But I digress).
I asked people to comment here on this blog and on FriendFeed (which feed to this blogs comments and can be tracked) with their Twitter handle, MBTI type, and follower and following count at the time of the survey. It took me so long to find time between clients to correlate the data that I ended up going into Twitter this evening and updating each respondents follower and following count for accuracy as of 2/7/09. (One thing I know going forward to the next set of data collection questions is that I will be using a more controllable poll system where data is input in one location and set for a certain time frame)
I was expecting the extroverts to have larger numbers for interaction in general. What I was pleased to find was an indication that social media tools like Twitter do seem to allow introverts to have more interaction than they normally might choose in real life. It was also interesting to read the comments – most of the comments expressing discomfort with the loose structure of the very informal survey came from introverts. Most comments that expressed excitement for the next step following the preliminary survey came from extroverts. Also, I was pleased to see that no one’s counts offered clear support for the Dunbar number theory. While there were some low numbers, it seemed to have more to do with involvement and engagement than a choice to limit contact.
Interesting to note, the introverts outnumber the extroverts slightly, coming in at 23 respondents to the extroverts’ 21. This survey is serving as a spring board to me for a more formal round of data collection. I wanted to see what questions assembling data on personality and use of social media would generate for me. Just looking at the results of this survey I already know I want to find out more about the nuance of the MBTI types and actual microblogging use. Other questions I want to answer in a more formal survey include age, gender and other demographics.
Please note that I am of the firm belief that time on a network does not matter to results of any survey. How long you are on Twitter, for example, won’t change your inherent comfort level as far as number of followers and following – your ratio would remain consistent over time. Take Beth Kanter, for example. Her introversion shows in how many people she follows, but her profession shows in how many follow her – she keeps her level consistent as possible to her comfort zone and manageability. I, on the other hand, have no problem keeping up with or following back most of the people who follow me – I am both social and pretty good at multi tasking, though my approach isn’t for everybody!
The next phase will be a formal survey over a longer period and reaching a much broader audience. I need to find a survey tool that can handle and correlate data from multiple questions, including MBTI, network counts, and more. I’m actively seeking that tool now. I may ask at Media Makers tomorrow morning if someone can make one for me – I’ll keep you posted on that. What questions does this survey bring up for you that you’d like answered in my next, more formal, round of collection? What are your thoughts on this round?