A combination of certain personality traits could make you more likely to become addicted to social networking, according to new research from the State University of New York at Binghamton.

Researchers collected self-reported data from nearly 300 college-aged students, which provided insight into their personality traits and online behavior.

Three personality traits–neuroticism, conscientiousness and agreeableness–play significant roles in social media addiction. These traits are part of the five-factor model, a framework that theorizes human personality.

The Five-Factor Model

Personality research is like any science, as relies on quantifiable data to examine what people are like. The five-factor model, or Big Five, was created in the 1970s and breaks human personality traits down into five dimensions of personality, regardless of language or culture. Researchers did not intend to find five dimensions. Instead, these five dimensions emerged after asking thousands of people hundreds of questions.

The five-factor model scores people on:

  • Openness.
  • Conscientiousness.
  • Extroversion.
  • Agreeableness.
  • Neuroticism.

Existing research explores the relationships between certain personality traits and addiction to drugs and alcohol, but personality traits as they relate to social networking addiction is a relatively unexplored area, said Isaac Vaghefi, assistant professor of information systems at SUNY Binghamton, who co-authored the study.

The study suggests that different combinations of these five personality traits could either diminish or amplify your likelihood of becoming addicted to social networking. Social networking addiction was noted when social media use negatively affected relationships and caused conflict. Additional indicators of addiction include social anxiety, depression, loneliness and professional problems stemming from online behavior, such as missing classes or deadlines.

Some of the correlations discovered in the study seem plausible. For example, high levels of neuroticism, or the degree to which people experience negative emotions like anxiety and stress, seemed to increase the likelihood of developing social media addiction. Neuroticism appeared to moderate the effect of conscientiousness as it relates to social networking addiction, referred to as the “moderation effect.”

This means that even if someone is an otherwise highly conscientious person who practices self-discipline and achieves their goals, high levels of neuroticism can overrule the perceived sense of control they have over social network use.

Other findings aren’t as logical. Low levels of agreeableness and conscientiousness generally resulted in irresponsibility and a lack of sympathy and indicated a higher likelihood of social media addiction. But, coincidentally, so did a combination of high levels of both agreeableness and conscientiousness.

One possible explanation is that agreeable people are inherently friendly and value their relationships, and conscientious people are particular about keeping in touch, which creates the perfect formula for social networking addiction. In what Vaghefi refers to as a “rational addiction,” agreeable and conscientious people may use social media more in order to maximize the perceived benefits of it.

Vaghefi estimates that approximately 20% of the population is addicted to social media and that an additional 30-40% is in danger of it. With technology becoming more sophisticated and, in turn, addictive, that number is only expected to climb.

“It’s hard,” Vaghefi said in an interview with The Washington Post. “Technology’s becoming advanced. Facebook and these other companies are working to make people hooked and they’re all improving their features.”

Vaghefi’s study adds to the growing body of research on social networking addiction, which will hopefully help users become more aware of their use and prevent addiction, and help treatment centers create new guidelines for social networking addiction treatment.

Guardian IOP uses an evidence-based approach that includes a combination of counseling and case management to treat social networking and gaming addiction. We know that a healthy future requires a clearly-defined, sustainable plan, and our case management program can help you get there. Learn more about our case managers and counseling services by contacting a Guardian IOP Specialist at (888) 693-1894.


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Anna earned her Masters of Social Work at Barry University in Miami, FL in 2017 and completed her internship in co-occurring disorders. Anna has a Bachelors of Art in Religious Studies from Naropa University and is a certified yoga and meditation instructor. Anna has received specialized training in somatic counseling with an emphasis on body-centered psychotherapy.