Online vs. “Real Life” Personality

I’m guessing that some smarty-pants person out there has already thought of this, but if I was a university Psychology PhD student, I know what my research and dissertation would be about: developing an instrument that categorizes personality, such as the famous Myers-Briggs Temperament Indicator (MBTI). The MBTI is probably the most widely familiar inventory, assigning it’s alphabet jumble of individual personality profiles – “I’m an INFP,” or “I’m ENTJ.” In grad school, I did a good bit of study on these assessments, and really enjoyed seeing how they work.

While the MBTI is an excellent inventory that gets better all the time, I would love to see a new thorough, nuanced, and validated personality assessment. Or maybe I’d just love to see a new version of the MBTI . . . like the wwwMBTI.

I’ve been making observations recently of the way I interact with people in person versus the way I interact with the same people online. In particular, I’ve noticed that some people have a distinctly different online personality. The most noticeable version of difference I’ve noticed is the face-to-face Introvert/internet Extravert. Some people that park themselves in a corner at a birthday party, only speaking with a few people, become the life of the online party, posting and commenting like crazy on Facebook status updates. It seems that the Introvert is able to have the best of both worlds – having relationships with people, but being able to do it in the quiet of their own homes.  I know there are some negative implications to this dynamic, but I actually like that I’m able to get to know the Introverts in my life better because they feel more comfortable sharing themselves in a way that feels more comfortable to them.

I’m also interested in seeing if other dimensions of personality are also different. Do some people shift from being Thinkers in person to Feelers online? Do some folks who would make decisions based on Perception in “real life” become more Judgment oriented online?

What do you think? Do you become a different person when you sit down at your keyboard? If so, do you like this, or does it worry you? What questions come up for you in this regard? What kinds of research questions would you propose in this area?

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