Twitter users are higher in openness and Machiavellianism than Facebook users

Twitter users tend to be more open-minded than people who only use Facebook, according to new research published in the journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture. The study also found that Twitter users tend to be more Machiavellian as well.

“I wanted to know why people use Twitter when Facebook is so ubiquitous. Does Twitter gratify needs – e.g., to promote one’s career – that Facebook doesn’t?” said study author Tara C. Marshall of Brunel University London.

“Second, I wanted to know why people tweet about the things they do. Why do some people tweet about politics, research findings, or the arts while others tweet about more personal topics? How much do they like reading others’ tweets about these topics?”

The study found certain personality traits were associated with using Twitter. In particular, openness to experience and Machiavellian traits were both positively associated with the likelihood of being a Twitter user.

The researchers surveyed 569 people who were both Facebook and Twitter users, 516 people who were users of Facebook but not Twitter, and 32 people who were users of Twitter but not Facebook.

“People who use Twitter tend to be higher in openness to experience (i.e., creative, intellectual) and Machiavellianism (i.e., manipulative, scheming) than people who use only Facebook,” Marshall told PsyPost.

Personality traits also influenced motives for using Twitter.

“Highly open individuals were drawn to Twitter to promote their careers, and tweeted more frequently about intellectual pursuits (e.g., politics, research),” Marshall said.

“Narcissists were more likely to tweet about personal achievements and diet/exercise, and they reported receiving more likes and retweets to their tweets. On average, people most liked to read tweets about intellectual topics and least liked tweets about diet and exercise,” Marshall said.

But the study — like all research — includes some limitations.

“Participants self-reported the frequency with which they tweeted about various topics and the number of likes/retweets their tweets typically receive, which may be prone to memory or social desirability biases. Narcissists in particular might inflate the number of likes/retweets they receive,” Marshall explained.

“This study found that Machiavellians are attracted to Twitter but did not shed light on why they use it or what they tweet about. Future research might test whether they use it for information-gathering and surveillance purposes, and then use any intelligence gained to manipulate others or enhance their own reputations.”

“While Twitter can be used for self-aggrandizement, it can also be used to enhance one’s social ties,” Marshall added. “Many people use Twitter for the sense of camaraderie and social connection that it can afford. For people with specific interests or who work in specific industries, it can be a valuable source of information and social support. Just as Facebook and Instagram serve particular needs, so does Twitter.”

The study, “Intellectual, Narcissistic, or Machiavellian? How Twitter Users Differ From Facebook-Only Users, Why They Use Twitter, and What They Tweet About“, was authored by Tara C. Marshall, Nelli Ferenczi, Katharina Lefringhausen, Suzanne Hill, and Jie Deng.