Social networks, trust, and personality

So the big meme this week is all about how Facebook and Twitter make it harder to trust your friends, because their definitions of “friend” include lots of people you don’t actually know well:

In some cases, social networks themselves may be contributing to the decline in trust. Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have allowed people to maintain larger circles of casual associates, which may be diluting the credibility of peer-to-peer networks. In short, the more acquaintances a person has, the harder it can be to trust him or her. Mr. Edelman believes the Facebook component has “absolutely” played a role in diluting trust levels.

As usual, I think the really interesting insights probably come from digging deeper into a claim like this. For instance, I have to wonder how personality plays into trust and how many friends you have on Facebook. Do extroverts have more than introverts? If that’s the case there are all sorts of other conclusions you could probably make.  As I understand it, introverts tend to generally score higher on metrics of intelligence than extroverts (and they do better in school).  And given that they are, well, introverts, it’s plausible that introverts already instinctively discount what most of their Facebook “friends” have to say. Are extroverts more credulous by nature? In fact, the Ad Age article hints at something like this going on in the final grafs:

Christina Smedley, global head of Edelman’s consumer practice, said there is still a core group of influencers that can change how people trust and influence the actions of others. And consumers, whether they are close to them or not, will follow their lead.

“There are … consumers who still only trust the people they see every day or their 120 friends on Facebook,” Ms. Smedley said. “But there are those that trust all 380 of their friends on Facebook. And there’s opportunity for brands with both groups. If marketers can find those action consumers, they can build campaigns that work through their parameters and get some very good results.”

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