25 April 2011

Introversion and Facebook use

In the article The relationship between unwillingness-to-communicate and students’ Facebook use Sheldon wanted to produce some knowledge on the social problem concerning people who are unwilling to communicate in face-to-face interpersonal communication and who view this type of communication as unrewarding. Sheldon hypothesized that people who are unwilling-to-communicate orally would be more likely to communicate through the social media site, Facebook.

Past research has demonstrated that Internet users who steer clear of socialising face-to-face chose the Internet as another way of fulfilling their interpersonal needs, and that alienation, introversion and trepidation when it comes to communicating led to higher use and reliance on communication through the Internet. However, there has been very little investigation done on the characteristics of people who use Facebook. Studying online networking and relationships is important because today’s generation spend so much time online compared to previous generations yet little is known about electronic relationships and how they relate to different personality types. Sheldon (2008) also saw this as an opportunity to test existing theories of interpersonal relationships in a virtual environment.

To find out about this social problem, Sheldon (2008) coordinated a survey with 172 students who completed a questionnaire on their Facebook use. Sheldon (2008, p. 70) states: ‘The survey measured: Basic demographics; Unwillingness-to-communicate; Gratifications of Facebook use: entertainment, escape, passing time, coolness, relationship maintenance, social interaction, virtual community, companionship; Facebook use: the amount of use, duration of use, the number of Facebook friends, the number of people never met in person, the frequency of logging into one’s account, satisfaction with Facebook.’

In the study, Sheldon (2008) found that people who get anxious and who fear face-to-face communication use Facebook more, however they have less Facebook friends than other respondents and they post and communicate on the site less. The study also found that the individuals who are experiencing online relationships are those who are communicating in real life as well, not the contrary. It is thought that introverts communicate online less often (but are online more) and the Internet primarily benefits extroverted individuals, as they use as an extension of their interpersonal communication. ‘There is no evidence that people who were unwilling-to-communicate offline would develop more relationships online’ (Sheldon 2008, p.74).