Is there something wrong with people who do not use Facebook? Hardly!

Recent news stories have suggested that employers may be reluctant to hire people without a Facebook profile on the grounds that Facebook usage has become so common that not having an account is seen as somehow abnormal. This concern appears to have been compounded by a lurid report in a German newspaper that alleged mass killers James Holmes and Anders Behring Breivik did not have Facebook accounts, leading to the rather hysterical conclusion that not having an account “could be the first sign that you are a mass murderer.”

Is there any substance to these concerns? Research suggests that although not having a Facebook account might be unusual nowadays it is hardly cause for alarm. Indeed, the fact that someone has an account is hardly a credential of mental health either, and may be associated with its own problems, admittedly minor ones.

An Australian study examined personality differences between people with and without Facebook accounts (Ryan & Xenos, 2011).  People with an account were found to be more extraverted and narcissistic, whereas those without an account were found to be more conscientious and also shyer. They also found that those without an account experienced more social loneliness, but those with an account experienced more family loneliness. They also looked at time spent on Facebook per day among users and found time spent was positively correlated with neuroticism and loneliness and negatively correlated with conscientiousness. All of these effects tended to be small. These findings seem comparable to those of a study comparing users of Facebook and Twitter respectively which found that people who preferred Facebook tended to be more extraverted and sociable compared to Twitter users, but also more neurotic and less intellectually oriented (Hughes, Rowe, Batey, & Lee, 2012).

What might this suggest to a potential employer concerned about whether an applicant has a Facebook account or not? On the one hand those who have an account will tend to be more outgoing and less shy, which would be important in jobs involving a great deal of face-to-face interaction. On the other hand, those who do not have an account tend to be higher in conscientiousness, suggesting they are more likely to be hard working, persevering and achievement oriented. In fact, conscientiousness has been found to be one of the strongest personality predictors of job performance across all professions. Furthermore, the more time a day a person spends on Facebook, the less time they are doing actual work and the more time they are likely to be whining about their personal problems. People who do not have a Facebook account also tend to be somewhat less narcissistic, that is, less egotistical and exhibitionistic. Employers concerned about someone not being on Facebook might instead want to consider the desirability of hiring applicants who think that “everything is about me” and who lack a strong work ethic. Narcissism is also a member of what personality psychologists call “the dark triad” of personality, along with such antisocial characteristics as psychopathy and Machiavellianism (Jakobwitz & Egan, 2006). Although there is no evidence that Facebook usage has anything at all to do either way with being a homicidal maniac, the fact that narcissism has a known relationship with antisocial traits would seem to suggest that people who do not have Facebook accounts are actually less likely to commit atrocities. All of these considerations should of course be tempered by the fact that all of the effects reported by these research studies have been small in size. So, looking at things scientifically, knowing that someone does or does not have a Facebook account is not likely to be a strong indicator of the character of the person, and is hardly concern for panic either way.    

Personally, I think a more worrying trend than people not having Facebook accounts, is revealed by cases of employers in the U.S. demanding that job applicants hand over their Facebook passwords or “friend” their bosses so that the latter can snoop on them. Perhaps, all this hysteria about some people not having accounts is really a cloak to justify an increasing invasion of privacy. Surely, trying to stigmatise or marginalise people who choose not to conform to popular social trends and demanding access to people’s private communications are hardly compatible with the values of liberal democracy.


Hughes, D. J., Rowe, M., Batey, M., & Lee, A. (2012). A tale of two sites: Twitter vs. Facebook and the personality predictors of social media usage. Computers in Human Behavior, 28(2), 561-569. doi: 10.1016/j.chb.2011.11.001

Jakobwitz, S., & Egan, V. (2006). The dark triad and normal personality traits. Personality and Individual Differences, 40(2), 331-339. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2005.07.006

Ryan, T., & Xenos, S. (2011). Who uses Facebook? An investigation into the relationship between the Big Five, shyness, narcissism, loneliness, and Facebook usage. Computers in Human Behavior, 27(5), 1658-1664. doi: 10.1016/j.chb.2011.02.004


This post also appears on Psychology Today on my blog Unique - Like everybody else.


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Comment by Scott McGreal on August 27, 2012 at 12:47am

Thanks for your comments Alan, glad you liked my post, I do try to be informed by research. Thanks to everyone else for your personal shares. 

Comment by Alan Perlman on August 19, 2012 at 1:27pm

Well said and well-researched.  Your last sentence is excellent and says it all.  IMHO, fear of insignificance is the most powerful driver of Facebook: "I post, therefore I am."  I have an account but rarely use it.  I am very careful about what I put on the Net.

Comment by Grinning Cat on August 14, 2012 at 8:51am

My friends know where my pictures are posted, where I discuss things. No one else needs that information.

Exactly! It's not my job to make it easier for employers, potential employers, stalkers, etc. to snoop. I'm another non-Facebook-user-by-choice, and this is exactly why I too prefer unconnected accounts that can be pseudonymous. My friends know where to look; others can't google my name and go fishing.

I used to be a frequent user of and contributor to Digg. No more, now that they've changed hands and their "v1" redesign considers you a non-person if you don't use Facebook or Twitter. If and when they reinstitute an independent signon system, I'll take another look.

Comment by jay H on August 14, 2012 at 6:00am
I don't use facebook, google+,linkdin or any other such service, though I am quite present on the net, but all under unconnected accounts

In particular I object to the ones that require 'real names' because that makes it easy for all sorts of people to gather up information about you. It's getting worse though, with more and more discussion sites going to facebook/google single sign on logins. People glibly use these logins because it's convenient. It's also very foolish.

This is bad for several reasons, first it is a bad security hole because a single compromised password affects multiple sites. Additionally there is a single point that coordinates all these postings, so everywhere you post with that account can be very easy to discover (sites that you join with just an email provide no easy way to find where else you've joined). It's especially bad with sites that require a 'real name' because then things you may have posted, about a wide variety of subjects and in a wide variety of contexts can all be easily brought together in a simple search. When there is a lot of trivial information scattered about under a single name, a great deal can be pulled together about a person, far more than one might realize.

My friends know where my pictures are posted, where I discuss things. No one else needs that information.
Comment by Scott McGreal on August 14, 2012 at 12:45am

I suspect most people who don't have Facebook profiles don't commit any crimes, but posting headings like "will you visit me in prison?" on any site is surely not a good sign! I read somewhere else that he sent a notebook with detailed plans of the shooting to his psychiatrist but the university mail centre had not delivered it when the police found it. I suppose most people think they are "nice", maybe he had a really weird definition of the term. 

Comment by Scott McGreal on August 11, 2012 at 7:28pm

Good for you Steph, I think the idea of employers making demands like that is outrageous and should not be tolerated. Aside from the fact it's creepy, privacy is a fundamental right. 



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