An Investigation of Status Posts and Happiness of Facebook Users

Angela V. Galioto, Jennifer L. Hughes, and Chen Zuo

Agnes Scott College


Online social networking sites have become a way for individuals to keep in contact with others around the world, with Facebook being one of the most popular sites. Facebook allows individuals to express themselves through its features, one of which is the status update. The authors examined whether or not there was a relationship between the content and frequency of Facebook users' status posts and their happiness. The researchers had three hypotheses: (a) users who reported more happiness would have more positive posts, (b) younger users would post more frequently and post more negative content, (c) women would post more frequently and post more negative content as compared to men, and (d) frequent posts would contain more negative content. The study included 412 participants of which 89 percent were female. The participants completed an online survey, giving their three most recent status posts, and they completed a happiness scale. A positive correlation between age and happiness was found, men posted more frequently than women, and a negative relationship between frequency of status posts and positive content was found. This study adds to the literature on Facebook and users' happiness. For future studies researchers should measure both personality and life satisfaction along with the content of Facebook posts.

An Investigation of Status Posts and Happiness of Facebook Users

In today's world, face-to-face interaction is no longer the only means to interact socially. Social networking sites are becoming more popular as users continue to use these sites as means of staying connected with others. The largest social networking site is Facebook, which boasts the greatest number of users around the world.

Founded in 2004, Facebook was first launched as a site to help keep Harvard students in touch with one another (Facebook, 2013). As of March 2013, Facebook reported 665 million daily active users, an increase of 26 percent from March 2012 and in July 2013, and 1.15 billion active monthly users. Facebook allows for users to post status updates, pictures, post on friends' walls and message them, play online games, and much more. Facebook also serves as a platform for individual expression and disclosure, for personal and social reasons. This study seeks to expand the Facebook literature by examining the relationship between reported levels of happiness, positive status updates, and gender and age differences in the frequency of Facebook use.

Many use Facebook for entertainment and as a way of maintaining existing real life friendships and forming online relationships. Reasons for using the Facebook can be described with two driving measures: the need to belong to a group of friends and the need for positive self-presentation (Nadkarni & Hofmann, 2012). Researchers have studied the usage of Facebook in terms of We-Intention and I-Intention. We-Intention is the theory that one involves himself or herself in an activity to belong to a group and the I-Intention theory states that an individual is acting solely for himself or herself (Cheung, Chiu & Lee, 2011). Facebook users generally have We-Intention as opposed to I-Intention. Users access online social networking sites to express a true self, their genuine self in a social environment, which has been found as a contributing factor to psychological well-being (Tosun, 2012).

To examine happiness or psychological well-being, one must first examine the components that contribute to happiness, such as personality and self-esteem. Generally, Internet usage has been found to be negatively correlated with happiness and psychological well-being. Perceived social support, in the form of Facebook friends, is positively related to well-being (Kim & Lee, 2011). It has been found that by allowing one to observe online friends' lives, comparison effect is created that causes one to think that others are living better lives and decreases happiness and life satisfaction (Chou & Edge, 2012).

In a study conducted by Back et al. (2010), researchers compared participants' self-report scores on commonly used personality inventories against the perception of the users' personality by friends and observers. The researchers found that Facebook can be used as an accurate measure of personality. The personalities of frequent Facebook users can be described as those who are high in extraversion and narcissism (Mehdizadeh, 2010). Extraversion is a personality trait in which individuals tend to be more social and positive; in the context of Facebook, they post and interact more with friends and post positive content (Amichai-Hamburger & Vinitzky, 2010). Individuals reporting low extraversion disclose less on Facebook as compared to those high in extraversion (Chen & Marcus, 2012). Extraverts benefit more from social interaction on online social networking sites than introverts, contrary to the researchers' predictions (Chen & Marcus, 2012). Introverts tend to find online social networking sites as a safe-haven to express themselves and usually post more negative content, which may lower their benefits of social networking as well as lower their self-esteem (Forest & Wood, 2012).

Narcissism is a personality trait in which an individual believes in his or her own grandiosity and ego. Researchers have found that narcissism, more than extraversion, can predict Facebook usage, with narcissistic individuals updating their Facebook status more frequently than those low in narcissism (Ong et al., 2011). Narcissism has been found to have a strong positive relationship with the number of online friends, desire for friends to have updates, and positive self-portrayal online (Bergman, Fearrington, Davenport & Bergman, 2011). Those displaying narcissistic tendencies are more likely to use photo uploading and the status update tool (Mehdizadeh, 2010).

Extraversion is not the only personality trait that can explain use of online social networking sites. Users of Facebook who reported more neuroticism were found to be more willing to share personal information on Facebook than those who reported less neuroticism (Amichai-Hamburger & Vinitzky, 2010). Openness to new experiences can also predict online social networking behaviors (Ross et al., 2009). Those who report openness to new experiences tend to be extraverts and are more willing to participate in other functions of Facebook (Ross et al., 2009).

Self-esteem is another factor of happiness and well-being; generally those with higher levels of self-esteem report being more well-adjusted and happier than those low in self-esteem. Self-esteem is closely related to the sense of belonging by an individual (Nadkarni & Hofmann, 2012). The amount of time spent on Facebook is negatively correlated to self-esteem and those who report low self-esteem may engage in more online activities to increase their self-esteem (Kalpidou ,Costin. & Morris, 2011). A negative correlation was found between emotional connection with Facebook and self-esteem, meaning that the more an individual feels connected to Facebook, the lower his or her self-esteem (Kalpidou et al., 2011). However, in a study that compared the use of Facebook and a mirror on self-esteem, researchers found that Facebook use increased self-esteem whereas the mirror did not (Gonzales & Hancock, 2011). The same study also found that preventing their participants from editing their Facebook page during the experiment caused the participants to report lower self-esteem (Gonzales & Hancock, 2011). Gonzales and Hancock (2011) concluded that the increase in self-esteem from Facebook was because Facebook allowed more of an opportunity for individuals' self-awareness.

Self-disclosure on Facebook is the act of presenting one's personal information (i.e., as status posts and comments) online and has been found to help maintain relationships and increase a sense of belongingness (Park, Jin, & Jin, 2011). Positive self-presentation and positive self-disclosure on Facebook has a direct positive association with Facebook user's subjective well-being, whereas honest self-presentation and self-disclosure had an indirect positive relationship with well-being (Kim & Lee, 2011). Researchers believe that the positive association is because of an illusionary effect that helps users cope with life situations. Self-disclosure on Facebook was believed to be negatively related to information control, until researchers found that they are not related but are based on personality features (Sloan, 2012; Christofides, Muise & Desmarais, 2011).

There are many differences between men and women's use of online social networking sites. McAndrew and Jeong (2012), in a study to understand the users of Facebook, found that women were more frequent users of Facebook than men. Women were more active on Facebook, using more Facebook tools than men. McAndrew and Jeong (2012) found that a woman's relationship status did not predict her use of Facebook, whereas a man's relationship status did, with men in a committed relationship the least likely to frequent Facebook. Women higher in openness and extraversion were found to frequently use social networking sites (Correa, Hinsley, & Gil de Zúñiga, 2010). Correa et al. (2010) found that although women were more likely to frequent social networking sites, men who experienced greater instability were more frequent users. Women were found to be generally more affiliative and more expressive of happiness than men (Hess, Adams, & Kleck, 2005).

The current study seeks to examine the patterns of usage among younger Facebook users as well. Younger people spend more time on Facebook, have more friends, and are generally more active on Facebook than older people (McAndrew & Jeong, 2012). College undergraduate students' happiness and well-being were predicted by positive self-images on Facebook as well as perceived social support (i.e., number of Facebook friends) (Kim & Lee, 2011). Young adults, as compared to other age groups, are most at risk for suffering from depression (Dawson, Shear & Strakowski, 2013; Jonas, Brody, Roper & Narrow, 2003). Moreno et al. (2011) found that college students who presented depression symptoms were more likely to have updated their Facebook recently and more frequently, which could explain their level of activity on Facebook. They also found that 25 percent of their sample of college undergraduates posted depressive symptoms and negative content on their Facebook page. Young adults' Facebook disclosure can be predicted by the need for popularity and approval by peers (Christofides et al., 2011).

The current study aimed to research the relationship between positive status posts and their relationship to happiness in Facebook users. The researchers hypothesized that there would be a positive relationship between those who report being happier and positive Facebook posts. Secondly, the researchers hypothesized that younger Facebook users would update their status posts more frequently and have fewer positive posts. Thirdly, the researchers hypothesized that female Facebook users would also update their status posts more frequently and have fewer positive posts as compared to males. For the fourth hypothesis, the researchers hypothesized that overall, regardless of age and gender, those who posted frequently would post more negative content in their status posts.



The sample consisted of 412 participants, 46 men and 366 women living in the United States that had Facebook accounts. The average age of the participants was 29.19 (SD = 9.84, Range = 18 - 69). The participants listed their ethnicity as being 50 precent Caucasian/White, 25 percent African American/Black, 10 percent Asian, 4 percent Hispanic, .7 percent Indian, .5 percent Native American, and 9 percent other or multiracial.


Happiness. Developed by Abdel-Khalek (2006), the scale is a self-report scale of one item that is used to measure happiness by asking: "Do you feel happy in general?" Participants rated their answer on a Likert scale from 1 to 10, from minimum happiness to maximum happiness. The research participants were asked to choose the score that best described their feelings, while imagining their global estimation and general feelings, with 1 being minimum score and 10 being the maximum score.

Status Posts. Participants were also asked to report their three most recent status posts. The researchers then evaluated the status posts and ranked them according to their content with 1 being negative, 2 being neutral, and 3 being positive.


Individuals with Facebook accounts were recruited by 20 research assistants through emails and social media. The participants were given an online survey using SurveyMonkey. In order to participate in the study, participants had to take the survey online. Participation in the study was voluntary and those who agreed to take the survey were entered into a drawing for a $50 Amazon gift card.


To test the four hypotheses, Pearson correlations and t tests were used. For the first hypothesis, the researchers predicted that there would be a positive relationship between users' reported happiness and positive status posts. A correlation test was used and the hypothesis was not supported. There were no significant results to support a relationship between reported happiness and positive content in status updates, r(327) = .05, p = .39.

For the second hypothesis, the researchers predicted that younger Facebook users would post more frequently and post less positive content, which was partially supported. The researchers found a weak, positive relationship between age and reported happiness, r(376) = .11, p = .04, meaning that the older the user, the more happiness he or she reported. Contrary to the researchers predictions, a positive correlation was found between age and frequency of status posts, r(334) = .13, p = .02, meaning that as age increases, the frequency of status post increase as well. There was no significance found for the relationship between age and positive content, r(309) = .01, p = .82.

For the third hypothesis, in which the researchers predicted that female Facebook users would post more frequently and post less positive content, the researchers conducted t tests. The hypothesis was only partially supported on the grounds of a difference in the frequency of posts between males and females. However, the findings were surprising. There was a significant difference in the scores for males (M = 2.06, SD = 5.15) and females (M = .77, SD = 1.35) with males posting more frequently, t(356) = 3.52, p = .01. No significant results were found to support a difference of positive content in status posts between males and females, t(329) = -1.18, p = .24, nor a difference in reported happiness between males and females, t(399) = -1.09, p = .28.

For the fourth hypothesis, the researchers predicted a negative correlation between frequency of posts and content of status posts. The hypothesis was supported and the researchers found a weak, negative relationship between frequency of status posts and positive content in the posts, r(301) = -.12, p = .03. The results indicate that users who post frequently are more likely to post negative content.


The authors of the current study evaluated the relationship between Facebook users' happiness and status posts. Once analyses were conducted, the researchers found that the hypotheses were partially supported with the data.

The first hypothesis stated that Facebook users' reported happiness would be related to the amount of positive status posts and it was not supported, meaning that there was no relationship between happiness and positive content in posts.

The second hypothesis stated that younger Facebook users' will post more frequently and post less positive content was partially supported. We found that the younger the Facebook user, the more he or she would post. However, there was no evidence that supported the posting of less positive content by younger Facebook users.

The third hypothesis stated that women would post more frequently than men and post less positive content than men. We found that there was a difference between the genders in regard to frequency of posting, with men posting more frequently than women. However, there was no evidence to support a relationship between women and negative content.

The fourth hypothesis stated that there would be a negative relationship between frequency of posts and the content of status posts. The researchers found a negative relationship between positive content and the frequency of status posts, meaning that more frequent postings contain more negative content.

In the current research, status posts revealed that users used the posts as a way to stay connected to their Facebook friends and to help maintain relationships. This is similar to previous research by Park et al. (2011) who found that Facebook users disclose information and use the site as a means of staying in touch. The participants who posted positive content revealed within their status posts an element of high self-esteem and knowledge of their true self, a trend that was highlighted in a study by Gonzales and Hancock (2011).

Positive posts, however, were not as frequent as the researchers of the current study had predicted, but can be explained by Kalpidou et al. (2011). They found that the frequency, which an individual uses Facebook, builds an emotional attachment between the user and Facebook, causing a drop in self-esteem, causing users to post more negative content. The current study did find evidence that frequency of status posts were negatively related to positive content. This relationship may be explained by the research conducted by Forest and Wood (2012). They found that introverts on Facebook tended to post more frequently in an attempt to raise their self-esteem, but the posts contained more negative content than those of extraverts. The posts then did not warrant the social support of Facebook friends and contributed to a lower self-esteem and more frequent posts. It is possible that the sample of the current study contained more introverts than extraverts. Extraverts have been found to post more positive content, as well as those who reported being more open to new experiences (Amichai-Hamburger & Vinitzky, 2010; Ross et al., 2009).

The current study found that men instead of women, post more frequently on Facebook. Previous research stated that women post more frequently (Correa et al., 2010; McAndrew & Jeong, 2012). McAndrew and Jeong (2012) found that women were more active than men on Facebook. Their research may provide some insight as to why the results of the current study were unexpected. The females of the current study may not be as extraverted or open to experiences as in the other studies, such as McAndrew and Jeong's (2012).

The current study found evidence about younger Facebook users' status posts and their reported happiness. Younger Facebook users posted more frequently and posted more negative content. Past research on younger adults are more likely than other populations to have lower mood (Dawson et al., 2013; Jonas et al., 2003). Moreno et al. (2011) found that college students who have depressive symptoms posted more frequently and more recently than the rest of their sample, similar to the findings of the current study. The frequency of posts by the younger participants in the current study could be explained by the need of younger adults to feel accepted by their peers and popularity (Christofides et al., 2011).

The current study helps to expand the literature. The Facebook literature includes research about how status posts reflect emotions besides depression, which composes most of the Facebook literature concerning emotion. This study provides new insight into the function of the status post feature, helping inform individuals about the reasons behind their online behaviors in the context of happiness and status post content.

We found results that support the literature in regards to negative posts by young adults. The results may help individuals notice the frequency of negative posts by young adults. These results combined with other research on the topic in the current Facebook literature may be used to develop preventative measures for those who are suffering from low mood and depression.

We also believe that the method used in the current study is a useful way to analyze actual content. Future research may be able to create an even better way to analyze the positivity of status posts rather than have each post coded, which can be subjective. A system to categorize the positivity of posts would help expand the literature even further.

This study had several strengths, including a large sample size, the diversity of the sample, the distribution of questionnaires, and the use of a validated scale. The study had 412 participants, giving the researchers a large amount of data to test and analyze. The sample of participants was also diverse, with participants from different ethnicities reporting data, which helps the generalizability of the results of the study.

The ease of data collection was another strength for this study, by using an online survey, it allowed for many to participate in the study. The online survey made data collection easier than it would have been with a paper survey. The online survey was easily distributed and accessed.

Finally, the use of a validated happiness scale helped contribute to the validity of the current research. The validated happiness scale is a strength in that it measures participant's happiness accurately. The scale was also easy for participants to understand and use.

Although the study had strengths and significance, the researchers did encounter limitations that need to be addressed, including an unbalanced sample with regards to gender, the coding of status posts, and the use of a single-item happiness scale. There was an uneven distribution of males and females in the sample with 46 males and 366 females. The researchers believe that this uneven distribution may have affected the results of the third hypothesis, skewing the result of the analysis towards males, who had a more concentrated mean.

A weakness of the study can be found in the scoring of the content in the status posts, which were subjective and arbitrary. The researchers found it difficult to keep the scoring consistent throughout, because status posts addressed a large variety of topics.

The last limitation that the researchers encountered had to do with usage of a one-item happiness scale. The one-item scale may not offer as much insight into the happiness of the participants as a multiple-item scale.

A future study could measure Facebook users' life satisfaction, happiness, and their relationship to the content of status posts. We believe that measuring happiness and life satisfaction simultaneously would offer a well-rounded view of psychological well-being on Facebook. Life satisfaction may affect Facebook use in the same way that research has shown that self-esteem does, in that less life satisfaction would result in more Facebook usage in an attempt to feel satisfied.

Finally, for future studies, researchers might want to conduct a longitudinal study that not only measures happiness, but personality and Facebook status posts. The study would span from young adulthood into late adulthood. Such a study would allow for researchers to observe the change in Facebook use as well as changes in a person's happiness levels throughout the years.


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