Since Facebook added the “like” feature to their site a few years ago, the “Facebook like” has become a major aspect of not only Facebook, but countless other social media sites. Although it seems that these “likes” serve as nothing more than ego boosts, one day, they could determine whether or not you get a job. I recently heard about a study that suggests through a computer model, your Facebooks likes can predict your personality. This also means that anybody who can see your Facebook profile could one day learn about your personality and pass judgements about such aspects as your creditworthiness and future job performance.
Not surprisingly, some people fear that this “personality research” will open up a whole new set of issues in the battle of online privacy. For their study, researchers used a computer model to gauge subjects’ personalities based on Facebook likes. To measure the accuracy of this model, researchers compared its verdicts to subjects’ ratings of their own personalities. They found that when fed enough likes, computers are actually very good at judging human personality, even better than your average friend or co-worker, and about as good as the average spouse. At least through a certain conception of your personality, a computer program can know you as well as your husband or wife, which is kind of terrifying.
The researchers also tested the computer model’s assessments to see how good they were at predicting various “life outcomes” that have been linked to personality. These include health, political leanings and overall happiness with life. The model’s ratings were better than those provided by other humans at predicting all but one of 13 life outcomes, life satisfaction. And they were better than people’s self-ratings of their personality at predicting four of the outcomes: Facebook use, number of Facebook friends, alcohol/tobacco/drug use and field of study. These first two outcomes aren’t too shocking, since you’d expect a Facebook-based algorithm to be able to accurately predict Facebook behavior. What’s more surprising is the fact that computers’ personality ratings were so good at predicting how much people drank and/or used drugs, and what subject they were likely to study.
According to researchers, computer-based personality assessment could have a number of applications: for instance, marketers could use the information to fine-tune their ads or reach out to specific groups. It could also change the world of online dating, allowing sites to pair people together through personality tests, as opposed to questionnaires. This model could even be used in job recruitment, possibly making a better match between people and careers. Nonetheless, the idea of your Internet personality determining such aspects can be a bit terrifying. If computerized personality screening and data collection became widespread, it could mean that people could be denied jobs, bank loans or be flagged for extra security at airports.