Psychologists have found that people's status updates on Facebook can reveal a lot about their personality traits, with new research revealing that people with low self-esteem more frequently post status updates about their current romantic partner, while narcissists are more likely to #humblebrag about their achievements.

While that all sounds like it's stating the obvious, the study is one of the first to look into what actually motivates people to write what they do on social media, and how the response they get affects them. And, we hate to tell you this, but it turns out we're all actually validating narcissists' behaviour.

"It might come as little surprise that Facebook status updates reflect people's personality traits," lead researcher Tara Marshall, a psychologist from Brunel University London in the UK, said in a media release. "However, it is important to understand why people write about certain topics on Facebook because their updates may be differentially rewarded with 'likes' and comments. People who receive more likes and comments tend to experience the benefits of social inclusion, whereas those who receive none feel ostracised."

To work out how people's status updates reflect their personalities, the researchers asked 555 Facebook users to complete online surveys measuring the 'Big Five' personality traits - extroversion, neuroticism, openness, agreeableness and conscientiousness - as well as their self-esteem levels and their tendency towards narcissism.

They also asked the participants how often they post on Facebook, what their status updates are most frequently about, and why they choose to share this information on Facebook. The team then monitored which of the participants received the most likes and comments in response to their status updates.

The results showed:

  • Conscientious people are more likely to update about their kids
  • Extraverts use Facebook to connect with others and post about their social activities
  • Openness is associated with intellectual posts
  • The lower someone's self-esteem, the more likely they are to update about their romantic partner
  • Narcissists are motivated by a need for validation, and most frequently post about their achievements, diet, and gym sessions.

The researchers also found that narcissists receive the most likes and comments on their posts, which encourages them to continue their social media bragging.

"Although our results suggest that narcissists' bragging pays off because they receive more likes and comments to their status updates, it could be that their Facebook friends politely offer support while secretly disliking such egotistical displays," said Marshall. "Greater awareness of how one's status updates might be perceived by friends could help people to avoid topics that annoy more than they entertain."

The results have been published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences, and the researchers now want to conduct further studies into how certain status update topics are received online, and how they affect the 'likeability' (both online and IRL) of the person who posts them.

What we've learnt from this is that, next time your friend is acting like a needy narcissist on Facebook, chances are they're probably feeling that way in real life too - and your 'likes' could be egging them on. Keep that in mind, and use social media wisely. You've been warned.