Excessive use of social media is turning us into narcissists, say researchers

Are you worried that your friends have an unhealthy obsession with taking too many selfies every day? It looks like researchers are also thinking the same thing. According to a study, the excessive use of social media, especially the posting of images and selfies, is linked to “a subsequent increase in narcissism.”

The study was published in The Open Psychology Journal.

Narcissism, selfies, and social media

Narcissism is defined as a personality characteristic which may involve beliefs of entitlement, grandiose exhibitionism, and taking advantage of others.

The study, which involved a collaboration between researchers from the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board, Milan University and Swansea University, examined the personality changes of 74 volunteers, who were aged 18 to 34, for four months.

During the four-month study period, the researchers studied the participants’ usage of social media such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter.

The researchers identified the participants who used social media excessively by assessing their visual postings. Based on the assessment, those who were always on social media had an average 25 percent increase in narcissistic traits during the four-month study. Based on the measurement scale used, the increase pushed a lot of the participants above the clinical cut-off for narcissistic personality disorder (NPD).

The results of the study also revealed that people who mostly used social media for verbal postings, like Twitter, didn’t display these qualities. But the researchers noted that for the group who preferred verbal postings, “their initial levels of narcissism predicted a growth in this form of social media usage over time.” The more narcissistic this group was to begin with, the more verbal postings they shared later.

Except for one individual, the rest of the participants used social media for an average of about three hours daily, excluding usage for work. Several volunteers also reported that they used social media for over eight hours every day for non-work related purposes.

At least 60 percent of the sample used Facebook, 25 percent used Instagram, and 13 percent used Twitter and Snapchat each. More than two-thirds of the volunteers preferred to use social media for posting images.

Professor Phil Reed, the leader of the study from the Department of Psychology at Swansea University, explained that there are those who believed that there was a link between narcissism and the use of visual postings on social media (e.g., Facebook). However, until the study, it was unknown if narcissists use this form of social media more, or if using the platforms was connected with the following growth in narcissistic tendencies. He added that based on the study results, both may occur.

But the results also imply that posting selfies may increase narcissism. If the sample accurately represents the population, the study shows that at least 20 percent of people could be at risk of developing the narcissistic traits linked to their overuse of visual social media.

Professor Reed warned that if “the predominant usage of social media for the participants was visual, mainly through Facebook,” it’s possible that the growth of this personality problem could be seen even more often, at least until experts determine the possible dangers social media overuse. (Related: If you enjoy taking “selfies,” you could be a psychopath.)

Professor Roberto Truzoli from Milan University said that the use of visual social media could highlight the perception of narcissistic individuals that they are the center of attention. Professor Truzoli concluded, “The lack of immediate ‘direct’ social censure, may offer them the opportunity to inflict aspects of their narcissistic personality, present themselves in a grandiose manner, and [realize] fantasies of omnipotence.”

What is Narcissistic personality disorder?

A person with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) may “have an inflated opinion of themselves.” Individuals with NPD have an intense need to be admired and be the center of attention. They may feel disappointed or unhappy if they’re not praised or give special favors they think they deserve.

Individuals with NPD may have the following traits:

  • Arrogant
  • Demanding
  • Self-centered

Narcissistic individuals may have high self-esteem and they tend to believe that they are special or superior, unlike other people. They also tend to have a ceaseless need for admiration and praise while reacting poorly to what they believe is criticism.

Take note that while some NPD traits seem similar to confidence, healthy confidence and NPD aren’t two different things. Confident people are often humble, while those with NPD rarely are. Individuals with NPD often put themselves on a pedestal and think that they’re better than everyone else.

If you’re worried that you’re taking too many selfies or that you’re spending too much time online on social media, visit Addiction.news for tips on how to manage social media addiction.

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