Facebook seems like a damn good mirror for reality, according to research by scientists—at least if you're talking about your real-life persona. Because your Facebook profile turns out to be excellent at capturing your true personality.
You might think, if you spend a minute or two pondering about it, that your social network profile may represent an idealized version of yourself—after all, who hasn't thought twice about uploading a status update that could make you look bad, or carefully selected photos to upload that aren't too embarrassing.
And that might be so, but according to Sam Goslin at the University of Texas at Austin your real personality still can shine through. Goslin is a psychologist, and he and his team analyzed 236 profiles of college-age types in the U.S. and Germany (from Facebook and StudiVZ, SchuelerVZ). They established a baseline personality assessment by sending questionnaires to the owners, and cleverly measured both the actual traits as well as the traits the individual thought would be ideal for them. By comparing the social network profiles with the perceived and actual personality types of their owners, Goslin's team was then able to work out if the profiles did a better job of representing the actual or idealized personality traits.
Goslin himself professed surprise at the outcome. He assumed that people were idealizing their profiles but found that real personalities tend to shine through. Why the results point this way are now attributable to two causes: Either the people in this dataset really weren't trying to idealize their online persona too much, or they were trying and failing.
The upshot of the research is that as well as being able to get you fired, heavily fined, and not hired, your social networking profile could actually let your true colors shine through—bad news to those among you who prefer to keep your personal selves truly private at all times, for whatever reason. But it's good news to those legions of PR guys and advertisers who are trying to serve up adverts carefully tailored to appeal to you: Essentially they now know your Facebook profile is a pretty reliable match to your real personality.
How can you avoid all of this self-revealing? Its pretty simple: Don't have a Facebook account. Or, and this is a radical idea in a world where we all analyze ourselves 24/7, just don't worry about it: Be confident in who you are, and get on with your life. It's probably more relaxing this way.