There used to be an advert on British television that showed people eating Cadbury’s cream-eggs in a number of odd and inventive ways. The tag-line was ‘How do you eat yours?’ Now a pair of researchers based in Turkey, Leman Tosun and Timo Lajunen, have taken a similar tack with Internet use, asking hundreds of undergrad students how they use their time on the global interweb.

More specifically, the researchers were interested in whether the students used the Internet for the benefit of their existing face-face relationships – for example for arranging meet-ups and sharing photos – and how much they used it for establishing new friendships or conducting Internet-only relationships. The researchers also wanted to know whether the students found it easier to express their true selves online than in the flesh. The point of all this was to see whether people with certain personality types tend to use the Internet in particular ways.

Using Eysenck’s classic personality test, Tosun and Lajunen found that students who scored high on extraversion (agreeing with statements like ‘I am very talkative’) tended to use the Internet to extend their real-life relationships, whereas students who scored high on psychoticism (answering ‘yes’ to statements like ‘does your mood often go up and down?’ and ‘do you like movie scenes involving violence and torture?’) tended to use the Internet as a substitute for face-to-face relationships. Students who scored high on psychoticism were also likely to say that they found it easier to reveal their true selves online than face-to-face. The personality subscale of neuroticism (indicated by ‘yes’ answers to items like ‘Do things often seem hopeless to you?) was not associated with styles of Internet use.

‘Our data suggest that global personality traits may explain social Internet use to some extent,’ the researchers concluded. ‘In future studies, a more detailed index of social motives can be used to better understand the relation between personality and Internet use.’

This post first appeared on the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest Blog. Publication does not imply endorsement of views by the World Economic Forum.

To keep up with the Agenda subscribe to our weekly newsletter.

Author: Christian Jarrett, a cognitive neuroscientist turned science writer, is editor and creator of the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest blog. His latest book is Great Myths of the Brain.

This post is published as part of a blog series by the Human Implications of Digital Media project.

Image: People are silhouetted as they pose with mobile devices in front of a screen projected with a Facebook logo. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic.