We can't help but make assumptions sometimes. We do this even on our social networks. When you see one of your Facebook friends constantly engaging in a certain kind of Facebook activity - from being negative or fabulous to posting lots of food pictures - you start to wonder what's the intent?
"Although [Facebook] is still in its infancy, research into social media is beginning to illuminate strong and significant relationships between personality and online behavior," says Joseph Cilona, a Manhattan-based licensed clinical psychologist, relationship expert and social media guru. "Most of the existing research indicates a strong correlation between various aspects of self-concept and self-esteem to online behavior."
But Cilona warns, as with anything related to interpreting human behavior and drawing valid conclusions, he strongly cautions against generalizations based on little or limited information. "[I] encourage everyone to gather direct evidence whenever possible and to look for patterns and themes that repeat over time and across situations," he says.
So what are some of those patterns?
You have a fear of expressing hostility if...
... you post passive-aggressive comments on Facebook.
"As with all passive aggression, these kinds of behavior suggest an unconscious conflict involving a fear of expressing anger or hostility and a need for expressing hurt, fear, anger or disappointment," according to Cilona. "Someone who is frequently passive-aggressive in his or her online behavior is much more likely to be so offline as well."
You need social validation and attention if...
... you share viral content that everyone's buzzing about.
"These individuals are often extremely concerned with attention and social validation. They are likely to be less interested in the actual content itself, and more interested in having an audience and how the audience receives and responds to the information," Cilona says. "These kinds of needs and issues are similar to those who are attracted to becoming performers of some sort to gain the interest and captivate attention of an audience."
You have a poor self-image if...
... you constantly post about how awesome, cool or fabulous you are.
"The irony with excessive status-seeking, self-aggrandizing posting [such as if you went to a fabulous party or had a blast at a particular event] is that it is a very strong indication of poor self-image, low self-confidence and an excessive need for approval, validation and recognition from others," Cilona says. "There is often a dependence on outside approval to maintain a positive self-image and worth."
This kind of posting pattern is also associated with narcissistic tendencies, including superficial relationships, lack of substance and manipulation, Cilona adds.
These observations can also be true if you're a constant name-dropper.
You either like to share great finds or are creating a fancy image of yourself if...
... you post pictures of food all the time.
"Posting of food pictures can often be thought of as either a declaration about the self or an emotional request," Cilona points out. But there's more to it...
If you're posting exotic or unusual food that you ate, you're saying, "I'm daring and bold."
If you're posting decadent, unhealthy, and indulgent foods, it can be an attempt to alleviate guilt by eliciting responses that indicate that others relate, identify or condone.
If you're posting food or a meal that was greatly enjoyed, you might simply be sharing a great find with friends and family to also enjoy one day.
Cilona adds, your postings may merely show you want to share something great, but if your meals are consistently from expensive, elite and trendy restaurants, the intention is more likely related to creating an image or perception.
You're shy and sensitive if...
... you troll around Facebook without posting anything yourself.
"This kind of behavior can be associated with an emotional sensitivity and a tendency for emotional sensibilities to strongly influence sense of self and style," says Cilona. "These individuals can be drawn to activity online by an attraction to the real or imagined possibilities represented by the lives of others. They can be self-effacing, shy, sensitive, and are often very attentive to and remember the information they encounter online."
You're bored, lame or both if...
... you constantly update your Facebook profile with mindless things like stuff you watched on TV or what you ate today.
"Frequent and primarily banal updates can indicate a need for distraction from boredom, unpleasant tasks, or troublesome feelings and thoughts. This kind of behavior can also indicate a need for attention and validation combined with a more passive and introverted personality," explains Cilona. "It's also important to remember the obvious: someone whose updates consistently lack substance might simply be below average in creativity, originality and intelligence."
You are needy if...
... you post negative things on your page all the time.
"Posting excessive negative comments is often associated with a need for caring, concern and empathy," Cilona explains. "Excessive negativistic posting patterns that frequently feature things like catastrophes, tragedies and the like can also indicate generalized anxiety and worry. This kind of pattern may also be considered a plea for comfort and emotional soothing."