You're so vain: Study links social media and narcissism

June 11, 2013

Facebook is a mirror and Twitter is a megaphone, according to a new University of Michigan study exploring how social media reflect and amplify the culture's growing levels of narcissism.

The study, published online in Computers in Human Behavior, was conducted by U-M researchers Elliot Panek, Yioryos Nardis and Sara Konrath.

"Among young adult , we found that those who scored higher in certain types of narcissism posted more often on ," said Panek, who recently received his doctorate in from U-M and will join Drexel University this fall as a visiting fellow.

"But among middle-aged adults from the general population, posted more frequent on ."

According to Panek, Facebook serves narcissistic adults as a mirror.

"It's about curating your own image, how you are seen, and also checking on how others respond to this image," he said. "Middle-aged adults usually have already formed their social selves, and they use to gain approval from those who are already in their social circles."

For narcissistic college students, the social media tool of choice is the megaphone of Twitter.

"Young people may overevaluate the importance of their own opinions," Panek said. "Through Twitter, they're trying to broaden their social circles and broadcast their views about a wide range of topics and issues."

The researchers examined whether narcissism was related to the amount of daily Facebook and Twitter posting and to the amount of time spent on each social media site, including reading the posts and comments of others.

For one part of the study, the researchers recruited 486 college undergraduates. Three-quarters were female and the median age was 19. Participants answered questions about the extent of their social media use, and also took a personality assessment measuring different aspects of narcissism, including exhibitionism, exploitativeness, superiority, authority and self-sufficiency.

For the second part of the study, the researchers asked 93 adults, mostly white females, with an average age of 35, to complete an online survey.

According to Panek, the study shows that narcissistic college students and their adult counterparts use social media in different ways to boost their egos and control others' perceptions of them.

"It's important to analyze how often social media users actually post updates on sites, along with how much time they spend reading the posts and comments of others," he said.

The researchers were unable to determine whether narcissism leads to increased use of social media, or whether social media use promotes narcissism, or whether some other factors explain the relationship. But the study is among the first to compare the relationship between narcissism and different kinds of social media in different age groups.

Explore further: Are young people who join social media protests more likely to protest offline too?

Related Stories

Poll: Teens migrating to Twitter (Update)

May 21, 2013

Twitter is booming as a social media destination for teenagers who complain about too many adults and too much drama on Facebook, according to a new study published Tuesday about online behavior. It said teens are sharing ...

Facebook: A confidence boost for first-gen college students

June 6, 2013

Facebook connections can help first-generation college applicants believe in their abilities to both apply to school and excel once they've enrolled, according to a new study from the University of Michigan and Michigan State ...

Recommended for you

The culinary habits of the Stonehenge builders

October 13, 2015

A team of archaeologists at the University of York have revealed new insights into cuisine choices and eating habits at Durrington Walls – a Late Neolithic monument and settlement site thought to be the residence for the ...

Ancient genome from Africa sequenced for the first time

October 8, 2015

The first ancient human genome from Africa to be sequenced has revealed that a wave of migration back into Africa from Western Eurasia around 3,000 years ago was up to twice as significant as previously thought, and affected ...

Mexican site yields new details of sacrifice of Spaniards

October 9, 2015

It was one of the worst defeats in one of history's most dramatic conquests: Only a year after Hernan Cortes landed in Mexico, hundreds of people in a Spanish-led convey were captured, sacrificed and apparently eaten.

From a very old skeleton, new insights on ancient migrations

October 9, 2015

Three years ago, a group of researchers found a cave in Ethiopia with a secret: it held the 4,500-year-old remains of a man, with his head resting on a rock pillow, his hands folded under his face, and stone flake tools surrounding ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

1 / 5 (4) Jun 12, 2013
I've known this for a long time..

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.