Men troll on Facebook more than women because of narcissism, study suggests

September 13, 2017 by Sarah Cox, Brunel University London
Credit: Brunel University

Men are more likely than women to have antisocial motives for using Facebook, which can be explained by their greater levels of narcissism, new research from Brunel University London and Goldsmiths, University of London, suggests.

Prior research has found that men are more likely to engage in bullying on Facebook, and online trolling in general. Studies have also found higher levels of narcissism in men.

This new research is believed to be the first to confirm a link between that behaviour and trait.

Writing in the journal Computers in Human Behaviour, lead-author Dr Nelli Ferenczi (Goldsmiths, Department of Psychology) with Dr Tara Marshall and Dr Kathrine Bejanyan (Brunel, Department of Psychology) conclude that, overall, men are more motivated to use Facebook antisocially, and this can be explained in part by greater narcissism.

They also found that women were more likely to use it prosocially, for a sense of connectedness and belonging, which can be partly explained by higher levels of relational self-construal (the extent to which individuals define themselves in terms of close relationships).

"The link between narcissism and stronger antisocial Facebook use might be connected with the general tendency of narcissists to hold extremely positive opinions of themselves which may alienate others," the research team explain.

"By posting self-promoting content on Facebook, narcissists may seek to cultivate an online profile which attracts admiration and views but ultimately isn't really concerned with pro-social outcomes.

"Moreover, narcissists tend to be antagonistic towards people who don't share their inflated views of themselves. Such antagonism may express itself in hostility or anger towards Facebook friends who challenge them or don't give them the attention they crave."

Cyberbullying is a strategy for gaining attention, the researchers say, and an exertion of negative social power and influence for narcissists. Their findings support the association of narcissism with self-promotion and cyberbullying.

The psychologists analysed the online survey results of more than 570 US participants. 77% were white and 85% were in full or part-time work or study.

Participants tended to be daily users of Facebook and have an average of 304 Facebook friends.

They rated themselves on a 13-point narcissistic personality scale, then rated themselves on a relational self-construal scale (eg. 'my close relationships are an important reflection of who I am') and on a uses-of-Facebook scale (eg. how far they would agree that they use the platform antisocially, to 'show off', 'be mean', or 'to badmouth people' for example, or prosocially –'to keep in touch with people,' or 'to show support for others' ).

The researchers say: "Sex differences in Facebook use may be a further reflection of the pervasiveness of gender stereotypes in the behaviours of men and women. In terms of greater narcissism, one explanation may be that as a result of stereotypes, characteristics such as competitiveness, assertiveness, need for achievement and dominance, tend to be encouraged in the socialisation of men and punished in women. The reverse holds true for communal characteristics, such as relational self-construal.

"Encouraging self-definition interdependently with others could help decrease trolling behaviour and encourage people to use Facebook in a more socially constructive and harmonious way. This will help meet the fundamental need for belonging and the maintenance of relationships while making Facebook a safer place for all its users."

The researchers conclude that their participants' responses could be prone to bias because they were self-reported, and that future research should involve the independent coding of Facebook profiles. They also recommend the involvement of a more internationally diverse sample size, given the higher levels of narcissism found in individualistic societies which place higher value on the development of a distinct and unique self.

Previous research by Dr Marshall and Dr Ferenczi has found that people who post Facebook status updates about their romantic partner are more likely to have low self-esteem, while those who brag about diets, exercise, and accomplishments are typically narcissists.

The psychologists' guide to spotting a Facebook narcissist

- More likely to post self-promoting content
- More likely to post frequent status updates and brag about their achievements
- The more they post, the less likely they are to receive validation in the form of likes and comments
- They tend to seek more social support than they're willing to give back
- They get angry when social contacts do not comment on content
- They retaliate against negative comments
- They're more likely to engage in Facebook bullying

Explore further: Facebook status updates reveal low self-esteem and narcissism

More information: Are sex differences in antisocial and prosocial Facebook use explained by narcissism and relational self-construal? By Nelli Ferenczi, Tara Marshall and Kathrine Bejanyan is published in Computers in Human Behaviour: authors.elsevier.com/c/1VfYw2f~UW0xso

Related Stories

Narcissism and social networking

April 18, 2017

Social networks are an ideal stage for narcissists to showcase themselves. Accordingly, a lot of people with narcissistic traits are drawn to these platforms as a new study conducted by psychologists from Würzburg and Bamberg ...

Narcissistic individuals use social media to self-promote

December 1, 2016

A new statistical review of 62 studies with over 13,000 individuals found that narcissism has a modest but reliable positive relationship with a range of social media behaviors. The largest effects were with the number of ...

Recommended for you

Political polarization? Don't blame the web, study says

September 19, 2017

Despite the popular narrative that the web is to blame for rising political polarization, a study by a Brown University economist has found that recent growth in polarization is greatest for demographic groups in which individuals ...

Ancestor of sea reptile super-predators found in Germany

September 15, 2017

A new species of extinct sea monster from the Early Jurassic has been identified by a team of German and Swedish researchers. The fossilized bones were found in a clay pit near the city of Bielefeld in Germany. The findings ...

Research on big ears, crocodile gambling wins Ig Nobels

September 14, 2017

Scientists who discovered that old men really do have big ears, that playing the didgeridoo helps relieve sleep apnea and that handling crocodiles can influence gambling decisions are among this year's recipients of the Ig ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

nrauhauser
not rated yet Sep 13, 2017
FaceBook is an experiment, as are all social networking sites. We've learned some interesting things, but some very painful lessons in connection with the 2016 election in the U.S. There are major changes in the wind, and a means to treat against cyberbullying and the dark triad psychopaths who engage in it will be part of that reckoning.

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.