A new research study by University of New South Wales psychologists has found that while people are often reluctant to share their personal experiences, they’re not afraid to share a bit of personal history.
Dr Sarah Welsch of the School of Psychology and Neuroscience at UNSW and her co-authors collected data from more than 50,000 Facebook friends of people in their social circle.
The researchers also took into account what the friend shared with their friends.
This revealed a striking divide.
While people who share with their Facebook friends are likely to share intimate details of their own lives, people who shared intimate details with friends are also more likely to say that their personal life is a good or great thing.
“People tend to like to share personal information in their friendships with their peers, even if that information may be private or embarrassing,” Dr Welsp said.
“For example, if a friend tells you about the pain they’re going through, they might tell you that they are doing well and that it’s a good time to talk about it with someone.
But if a person shares with you that she has cancer and it is a really hard time for her, it may feel like the person is trying to cover up something that she knows is true.”
The findings of the study are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Dr Welsnak said the study found that people who were close to their friends and loved ones were more likely than people who weren’t to share with friends.
“They were more comfortable sharing with their closest friends, friends who shared with them often, who were the ones they thought were the best friends they could have,” she said.
Dr Adam Ralston, an assistant professor at the University of Adelaide, said the findings suggest that people might be more willing to share the intimate details they’re proud of in order to “get the full picture” of their friends’ lives.
“It could be that sharing personal experiences in a group can make people feel more comfortable and that sharing with friends can allow them to get the full story,” he said.
In the study, the researchers asked a sample of more than 25,000 people in a sample that included more than 20,000 friends and a small group of unrelated people.
The participants were asked to rate their friends on how often they had a good, bad or indifferent relationship with them.
Dr Ralstone said it was not clear whether this had a direct impact on friendship, but there were strong correlations between people’s personal experiences and how they rated their friends.
“One of the findings of our study is that people with higher levels of intimate knowledge of others’ lives are more likely, but not necessarily more, to say their friendships are good or very good,” Dr Ralsteyn said.
While people tend to share information about their own relationships with friends, they are more willing than those without this knowledge to share in the face of criticism.
Dr Håkan Svedhem, a psychology PhD candidate at the Australian National University, said it could be because of a heightened need for self-esteem.
“The more people feel insecure about their relationships, the more they’re willing to take risks and take risks to protect those close relationships,” Dr Svedehm said.
A key point to remember is that the research has shown that people tend not to share more intimate information with their social network, so it’s possible that they may be afraid to do so in the first place.
However, Dr Svehnm said it wasn’t clear whether people were more willing or more reluctant to admit to their own faults in order for the other person to be open to listening.
“Maybe they have a higher level of confidence in themselves, they know they can be strong and confident without admitting their faults,” Dr Håhan Svehm said.