Five Labs has released a new Facebook “quiz” that holds up what some say is a funhouse mirror to people's digital lives. The online tool scans users' social media posts in search of clues about the their personality. Do you recognize what is reflected back by your Facebook page?
“This new app has over 100 million Facebook users taking stock of how others may view and perhaps judge them,” says Five Labs founder Nikita Bier.
Mr. Bier explains that the program takes into account only the words you post and what you say in comments and photo captions on Facebook. It does not track words posted as comments by others on your wall.
This new looking glass that Five Labs has constructed relies on a study published by Five Labs advisor H. Andrew Schwartz and his colleagues from the University of Pennsylvania's World Well-Being Project.
The application’s predictions are based around Dr. Schwartz's “Big Five” personality traits: extraversion, openness, neuroticism, conscientiousness, and agreeableness.
“A lot of users really took offense to the use of the word ‘neuroticism,’ but we really don’t use it in a negative light," Bier says. "In this instance, it means a user posted words like: depression, hate, lonely, sick, worse, alone, dead, stupid, bored, nightmare, scream, angry, or anxiety.”
The “openness” trait, on the other hand, is characterize by the use of words such as: universe, art, I've, writing, soul, music, dream, poetry, epic, and zombie.
This program measures the appearance of these words, not the context surrounding them.
Bier hopes the quiz will help users become more self-aware. He points out that while the output of the tool is a fun pastime, the quiz itself also provides some insight into the way marketers can batch-skim your Facebook posts to better advertise to you.
“Social networks have become corrupted, more like television,” Bier says. “Why does a social network even exist if it's no longer representative of the people on it?”
Curious readers can try the quiz at the Five Labs website. The website will ask for permission to access your Facebook profile, then analyze the words you post online to make its personality assessments. When it's done, Five Labs will score your Facebook profile in each of the five traits and provide an overall list of key words that it thinks best describe you.
Then, you can click on either a celebrity or friend profile to compare results.
For example: I am 70-percent similar to Microsoft founder Bill Gates, but only 24-percent similar to President Barak Obama on social media.
According to my analysis, on Facebook I am, “Solitary, curious, analytical, sensitive and easy going.”
Since this didn’t actually feel much like me and left several people I know on Facebook LOLing themselves sick, I decided to try and skew the quiz, as can often be done with other Facebook quizzes by giving the “right answers.”
“You can’t alter the results because you can only do the analysis one time,” Bier says. “We would never be able to handle the volume of people retrying. That’s actually one of the most interesting results of this lab: people don’t recognize themselves and what they’ve become on social media.”
He argues that it isn’t the fault of the developers that users find themselves unrecognizable, but that users of social media have reshaped their images to be more politically correct or pleasing, rather than just being themselves.
“We wanted to get a feel for just how far Facebook has drifted away from actually being a social network,” Bier says. “It’s lost that town-square feel it once had before it was opened up to people outside a college campus environ.”
Five Labs is planning to use this tool to help Facebook users take a closer look at the “false personas” they have become on social media platforms.
In so doing, Five Labs hopes to generate an uprising and demand for the Five Labs alternative, which Bier says, is coming soon and will be, “a more intimate social network platform.”
“We are creating a kind of restaurant or café kind of meeting place where people can be real with each other again,” Bier says. “Instead of tailoring your identity as we seem to be doing on Facebook we can be ourselves again.”