Social Networks and Narcissism
Phalanx of psychological luminaries has been deliberately fomenting hysteria around the subject of narcissism lately. Many are concerned that narcissistic tendencies eat away at the modern society insomuch as it risks crossing the threshold of no return. It should also be noted that the term “narcissism” has become a buzzword recently, with many dilettanti using it in reference to greater range of aspects than it actually covers. According to the generally accepted definition, “narcissism is a pathological form of self-esteem regulation, whereby aggression and self-inflation are used to protect one’s self-concept” (cited in Campbell & Miller, 2011). Lasch emphasizes that narcissism is a “fait accompli in a society preoccupied with images, spectacles and surface appearances” (cited in Rojek, p. 114). King (2009) believes that narcissism is closely associated with nihilism (p. 153). However, not all specialists take a similarly critical view of narcissism. Thus, Franieck & Gunter (2010) argue that all people “are born as narcissists and gradually their infantile narcissism matures into a healthy adult narcissism” (p. 28). Nauer, Nauta & Witte (2005) define narcissism as a strong psychological interest in oneself or, in other words, mental care of oneself (p. 198). However, what they fail to observe is that narcissists become seemingly blas? about the concerns of others because of this keen interest in them. This paper regards narcissism as an inherently bad thing. For the purposes of this study, terms “narcissism”, “solipsism”, “egotism” and “vanity” have been used interchangeably to avoid repetition.
Understanding narcissism is of paramount importance, because its long-term consequences corrode and corrupt the society. Some people argue that there is nothing bad about narcissism, but it is not always the truth. Indeed, in order to develop a proper personality, a person needs to strike a balance between self-esteem and self-abasement. It is important not to cross a brittle line between what is normal and what is not. Narcissism and self-flagellation are the two extremities in the pursuit of self-realization. Today, too many people have been beguiled into a false belief that narcissism is necessary to bootstrap one’s way in life, but this is a mere delusion. As Twenge & Keith (2009) put it, “American culture’s focus on self-admiration has caused a flight from reality to the land of grandiose fantasy”. Once a person develops narcissism, it is difficult to put them out of conceit with admiring themselves. According to Weiner & Craighead (2010), narcissism has plethora of both physical and psychological effects on individuals:
“Grandiose narcissism is negatively related to neuroticism (e.g., depression, anxiety, self-consciousness) and positively related to extraversion (e.g., assertiveness, activity level and excitement seeking). The opposite is true for the vulnerable form of narcissism as these individuals are prone to negative emotions like depression and anger and are less gregarious and assertive” (p. 1052).
The recent social networking explosion has made a remarkable contribution to the entrenchment of narcissist tendencies in the modern society. Indeed, Internet has become a showcase of solipsistic individuals. The overarching aim of this study is to scrutinize the growing levels of narcissism among social media users. This research project established that the incidence of narcissism among those who use social media as their vicarious form of social life is higher than that among individuals having active real-life interactions within their social milieu. Owing to these causes, some specialists voice concerns that narcissists will soon considerably outnumber and override non-narcissistic social networking web sites users.
There are fears in some quarters that the ballooning interest of individuals in social networks often amplifies the level of narcissism among them. Under these circumstances, the question arises: do social networks enhance an individual’s sense of self-esteem and develop narcissistic behavior in them?
This study sets forth a variety of ambitious, albeit achievable, objectives:
1. To find out how often social networks users post on their profiles and compare these findings with the amount of time they spend browsing around in Internet, in general, and reading the posts of other users, in particular.
2. To determine whether increased use of social networks promotes narcissism and vice versa.
3. To ascertain whether there are any other factors that should be taken into account while studying the given research question.
The present study found that the number of narcissists increases as a corollary of the growing popularity of social networking web sites. In this context, the distinction should be drawn between primary and secondary narcissism. According to Freud, “primary narcissism describes the initial love of the own body and its genitals” (cited in Northoff, 2011, p. 163). Freud further argued that the release of the libidinous cathexis into person’s own body resulted in a “libidinous extension of the egotism of the self-preservation instinct (cited in Northoff, 2011, p. 163). The author of this study took it for granted that social media could be hardly accountable for such developmental disruptions and focused instead on the secondary, and less severe, form of narcissism.
Notwithstanding the fact that social networking is a relatively recent phenomenon, there is already wealth of research into the interconnections of social media and narcissism. It should be noted that the first discreet forays into this subject were made in the late 2000s, hence, the need for further research. This literature review offers a detailed analysis of the salient points of other researchers’ studies. A wide range of books, articles in peer-reviewed journals and other research materials has been reviewed for the purposes of this project..
In his analytical survey of the latest research into the area of social media and narcissism, Williams (2013) contends, “the people that use Facebook tend to have insecure personalities”. Citing another study by Larry Rosen, Williams (2013) maintains that youths who dissipate much time on Facebook “are likely to display signs of other behavioral problems”. Among other negative implications of teens overusing social networks are anti-social behavior and poor scholastic performance. Williams (2013) opines that narcissists spend more time on Facebook than individuals with a non-bloated sense of self-esteem. A study of Buffardi & Campbell (2008) backs up the findings of Twenge & Campbell (2009), suggesting that narcissists use Facebook the same way as they use their other relationships – for self-promotion with an emphasis on quantity over quality. Williams (2013) asserts in a disclaimer that the influence of social networks on narcissism is not a sure thing. A battery of studies, including McKinney, Kelly & Duran’s (2012) and Gonzales & Hancock’s (2011), bears out his claim, arguing that the time is ripe to redefine narcissism. They all concur that solipsism is a boon for rather than a bane of the modern society.
In their splendidly readable book The Narcissism Epidemic, Jean Twenge and Keith Campbell (2009) argue that narcissism is rife and rampant in the current culture, with its manifestations stretching from surgery to reality TV and to the rising narcissism scores among young people. They launch into a rhetorical question whether social media is to blame. Having analyzed an avalanche of relevant literature, Twenge & Campbell (2009) arrive at the conclusion that “narcissists thrive on social media”. It well may be that they exhibit solipsistic behavior because they feel out of their element in real life. One way or other, social networks give them this comfortable feeling. Twinge & Campbell (2009) make a peremptory declaration that narcissism is conducive to extensive social networks use, which leads to an outsized vision of one’s own influence, and people who need to boost their self-esteem turn to social networks. Although the authors admit that this is a vicious cycle fraught with risks of developing egotism, they refrain from stating that social media use directly causes narcissism (Twinge & Campbell, 2009). It may be a coincidence, but Twinge & Campbell have observed, “The rise in narcissism is accelerating, with scores rising faster in the 2000s than in previous decades” (p. 2). This is a testament to the baleful impact of the social networking web sites. The authors even compare the scourge of narcissism to that of obesity, for both problems have been on the rise lately (Twenge & Campbell, 2009).
Younger social network users have much more pronounced penchant for narcissistic behavior than their chronologically gifted counterparts. Nevertheless, both groups indulge in solipsism in one way or another. In this context, it should be noted that the age of social network users under examination matters a lot. According to Panek, Nardis & Konrath (2013), “Among young adult college students, we found that those who scored higher in certain types of narcissism posted more often on Twitter”, hence, the conclusion that Twitter is a megaphone. At the same time, the researchers suggest that middle-aged narcissists post more frequent status updates on Facebook (Panek, Nardis & Konrath, 2013). Due to the fact that Facebook offers more comfortable service of posting photos, it is deemed a mirror for narcissists. Returning back to vain college students, Panek, Nardis & Konrath (2013) reckon that they tend to exaggerate the importance of their opinions and use Twitter as a platform to obtrude these opinions upon their broad social circles. The researchers claim that this is exactly the reason why younger narcissists prefer to indulge in their vainglorious boastings and other puerile gasconades on Twitter rather than any other social network. Meanwhile, such networks as Facebook and Instagram serve as a technologically enhanced mirror, reflecting a preoccupation with one’s own image (Panek, Nardis & Konrath, 2013).
Thomas Chamorro-Premuzic (2014) has a somewhat different explanation of how social networks contribute to the rise in narcissism. He argues that Hollywood stars use social media as a vehicle for their “inflated self-views, grandiose exhibitionism, shameless self-promotion, and superficial personalities” (Chamorro-Premuzic, 2014). They set an example for millions of their admirers, who also start treating Facebook as a place where to give vent to their pent-up narcissism. Sometimes, emboldened by the examples of celebrities, people transcend the bounds of decency. For example, Hamblin (2013) offers a catalog of selfies taken by ordinary people during or immediately after funeral ceremonies. Appallingly, this behavior has also been more becoming among high-profile politicians lately. A selfie of British Prime Minister David Cameron, Danish Prime Minister Helle Schmidt and US President Barack Obama taken during the memorial service for one of history’s most revered leaders Nelson Mandela in December last year demonstrates this point clearly. The fact that this outrageous faux pas did not stir up a big brouhaha means that the society is becoming accustomed to the ubiquitous narcissism. Chamorro-Premuzic (2014) wittily calls the 21st century the age of digital narcissism, unfathomable ostentation opportunities and inexhaustible bragging opportunities. According to Chamorro-Premuzic (2014), everybody who has access to Internet may become a star of their own 24/7 hour reality show. Being an international authority in personality profiling and psychometric testing, Chamorro-Premuzic (2014) asserts that the proliferation of social networking web sites has had a negative effect on the levels of altruism and empathy in people. He expounds the essence of social media with pinpoint accuracy:
“Inappropriate self-disclosure and digital exhibitionism have been at the core of every website and mega-successful application. It all began with MySpace, a directory for wannabe (sic) pop stars and DJs. Then Facebook came, the encyclopedia of common people. YouTube gave everybody their own TV channel; Blogger and Tumbler made us all creative writers. Twitter brought in tons of followers and LinkedIn positive endorsements – because who cares about our faults? Instagram made selfie the word of the year, while Tinder – the ultimate dating tool for narcissists – and Snapchat – the bastion of ephemeral sexting – make Facebook look intellectual” (Chamorro-Premuzic, 2014).
Chamorro-Premuzic (2014) uses an apt metaphor, saying that social media to narcissists is like crack to drug users, i.e. highly addictive. Referring to the studies of other specialists Chamorro-Premuzic (2014) asserts that the number of “attractive selfies, status updates, check-ins, and followers” as well as the willingness to accept friend requests from strangers, “are all positively correlated with narcissism”. He admits that human beings are programmed to seek approbation of others and it is not inherently wrong to take into account what others think of them. Chamorro-Premuzic (2014) advices people to watch earnestly lest this desire should be accepted metamorphose into a relentless quest for status. As a means of curbing the digital narcissism rise, Chamorro-Premuzic (2014) offers to build special-purpose algorithms into Facebook and other social networks that would “alert users about their growing grandiosity, excessive self-promotion, pathological self-love”, until it is too late.
According to Julie Beck (2014), the distinction should be drawn between that how people comfort themselves online and in real life. She also intimates that narcissists bear themselves differently in these two dimensions. While the conduct of narcissists may be staid and demure in real life, “they tend to choose more attractive, attention-seeking photos” online (Beck, 2014). The opposite is also true sometimes, with unassuming online demeanor being at variety with the bloated sense of self-esteem in real life. Although attempts to link narcissism to cyberbullying have resulted in a resounding “maybe”, it is a matter of fact that narcissists behave more aggressively online than usual people (Beck, 2014). It should be noted that solipsism also runs high among online players. “In social setting, excellent players receive the recognition of others, and gain status and power” (cited in Beck, 2014). However, online games are to a certain extent social networks in themselves. Players attach their nicknames to a “carefully curated veneer of self”, build shallow relationships with other players, and maintain inflated, albeit delicate, egos (Beck, 2014). This is a crucial piece of ironclad evidence that proves the correlation between technological progress and narcissism. Beck (2014) concludes, “Narcissists’ preferred online haunts have changed, they are changing, will change, and researchers are trying to keep up”.
Having examined a cascade of literature on the topic, it becomes evident that the majority of researchers treat social networks as a springboard for the development of narcissism in users. There is a growing body of evidence suggesting that young people are becoming increasingly narcissistic as well as obsessed with self-image and shallow friendships. According to Pearse (2012), “Facebook is a place where people go to seek social support and repair their damaged ego”, and, thus, leads to narcissism. Almost all of the studies reviewed above bear out this claim.
The author of this study recruited participants at the Sophia Antipolis campus of Skema Business School in the southeast of France. The campus is nestled at the heart of Europe’s largest high-tech/science park with an eponymous name. Indeed, the Sophia Antipolis technology park is a veritable hive of scientific activity. Furthermore, there are roughly 1,300 information and communication technologies companies in the immediate vicinity of the campus, which makes Sophia Antipolis an ideal place to study and conduct scientific research. The school dovetails both with the architectural style of the park and spiritual environment thereof. A range of factors, including unique geographical location, clement climate, eminent faculty, a wide choice of training programs, immense international prestige of the school and presence of potential employers nearby, beckon students from around the world to the French Riviera. Indeed, Skema Business School is deemed to be one of the few academic pedigrees acceptable for a business scholar in France. It was created in 2009 by the merger of two French grandes ?coles – Ceram Business School and ESC Lille (Anderson, 2009). Curiously enough, the spirit of cosmopolitanism insinuated itself into the school immediately after its establishment. Nearly 20% of all 6,300 students come from abroad. It should be noted also that every fourth student at the Sophia Antipolis campus works towards a doctorate.
Methodology and Data
30 Facebook owners from the Skema Business School have been recruited for the purposes of this study. 50% of participants were male and the median age was 20 years old. All participants gave their permission to be added to Facebook and assented to have their pages coded. Shortly thereafter, they all were thoroughly interviewed. Participants of this investigation answered questions about the extent of their social networks use and underwent a personality assessment to determine their proclivity for online narcissism. In the framework of this assessment, the aspects of arrogance, exhibitionism, imperiousness and self-sufficiency were measured. All participants spoke on condition of anonymity.
For the first part of this study, Facebook profiles of the participants were minutely examined. While investigating Facebook profiles, the emphasis was put on the main photo, the ‘About Me’ section, the Status Updates section, and photos in the albums. The author of this study rummaged through the participants’ Facebook profiles to detect some signs of self-promotion. For instance, while scrutinizing photos of each participant, the attention was paid to captions under pictures, facial grimaces, evident signs of the use of picture enhancement software, and the frequency of new uploads. The analysis of the Status Updates section also yielded a rich harvest of results. While ferreting out in this section for any hints of self-admiration on the part of the participants, the author of this study found that it often bristled with posting results from Facebook applications, such as “PicFace Celebrity Matchup”, and other doubtful online tests, which provide superficial and, what is more important, over-optimistic description of the users’ personality. Finding a post stating “Despite your point of view, I can thrill a girl or two” on the male’s wall or “Am I not gorgeous?” on the female’s wall would have been considered to be a direct evidence of narcissistic behavior. The adverse ratio of usual pictures to selfies was also regarded as a worrying signal. Despite the fact that the sample size was not big enough, the author looked for decisively ludicrous requests, including “Like my photo” in the Status Updates section. The author also checked if the participants liked their own posts and pictures. The Status Updates section was also scanned for any other tenuous indications of self-promotion, such as posts featuring links to other social networks of the user. Finally, the author of this study looked through the About Me section to determine how the information contained therein reflected or rather correlated to the reality as observed in the previous sections.
For the second part of this study, the author invited participants for an individual interview. The interviewees were not informed about the thematical concern of the study until the end of the first phase of the interview so as to ensure that they would not try to conceal narcissistic behaviors, if any. The author of the study attempted to elicit as long and meaningful responses from the interviewees as possible. The interviewer commenced the conversation with a couple of general questions. Right after this, the conversation proceeded to more specific questions aimed at diagnosing any symptoms of narcissism in the interviewees. Thus, the questions were geared to determine if the interviewees exhibited any of these qualities:
· Nonchalant attitude to the opinion of others as well as querulous and jaundiced view of any remarks made by others;
· Reluctance to listen to the arguments of interlocutors altogether;
· Self-love bordering on obsession and indifference to the feelings of others;
· A manner to deport oneself with an air of insouciance;
· An unwavering belief in one’s own superiority;
· Imperviousness to the slightest hints of criticism;
· Unwillingness to shoulder the responsibility for something;
· Reluctance to admit one’s guilt and a habit to put the blame on someone else;
· Low threshold of anger and petulant reaction to any advice.
Whereas these qualities could help to identify an outright narcissist, a block of questions was designed to diagnose latent and incipient narcissistic tendencies in the interviewees. These questions were used, inter alia, to find out if the following was true for the interviewees:
· You can easily become disappointed in other people from your social milieu;
· It is vitally important for you that your kith and kin should elevate all your virtues to the sublime;
· You are often envious of others and you are sure that others are envious of you;
· You find it hard to feel empathic understanding of the problems of your interlocutors when they share them with you;
· You are never loath to criticize others for their outr? taste in clothing, bizarre manners and crass ignorance.
The questions were couched in careful terms so as not to evoke suspicions or offend the susceptibilities of the interviewees. After the questioning session, the interviewees were requested to take a 40-item narcissistic personality quiz based on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory as presented in the article of Raskin and Terry (1988, pp. 894-895) and available online. Pearse (2012) suggests, that “people who score highly on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory questionnaire, have more friends on Facebook, update their newsfeeds more regularly, and tag themselves more often”. Hence, the results of this test were considered to be a litmus test of narcissism in the participants. Similarly, the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, described as “a reliable and qualitative tool of self-esteem assessment” by Robison, Shaver & Wrightsman (1993) was used for the purposes of this study. On the next stage, the author of the study asked each interviewee a series of questions about their use of Facebook aimed at establishing the correlation between their solipsism, if any, and social media use. For instance, the interviewees were offered to name three annoying things about Facebook. By the same token, the participants were induced to voice their opinion on people sharing every single detail about what they were doing with their friends. The participants were asked to muse upon this broad theme in the context of online privacy. Naturally, the conversation segued into a discussion of narcissism. The author of this study interrogated participants about their opinion of narcissism and solipsistic people. The interviewees were also asked if they ever had any intentions of launching their own groups about themselves, as narcissists are wont to do.
This study was to a certain extent revolutionary, because all the 30 Facebook owners participated in the process of dissecting their profiles. After each interview, the author asked an interviewee to explain what motivated them to post a particular update on the wall or to upload a particular picture to the album. For instance, the participants were queried about their motivation to choose a particular picture as the main photo and asked if they vacillated for a long time before choosing one. After all, as Beck (2014) put it, “The trouble with determining what is normal and what is narcissism is that both sets of people engage in the same online behaviors; they just have different motives for doing so”.
It befits every person to regard themselves with a certain degree of affection and self-respect. However, it is difficult to converse with those individuals who have these qualities in excess. It was postulated that online communities open up a cornucopia of possibilities for narcissists to promote themselves and they eagerly make full use of them. The literature review also found that narcissism is directly related to the amount of daily posting and the amount of time spent on social networking sites. This study was conducted to either support or refuting the hypothesis that heavy use of Facebook is positively correlated with narcissism.
The online world acts like a magnet and its allurements drag billions of users worldwide. Indeed, there are very few restrictions and limitations in Internet. However, when taken too far, Internet use has the whole panoply of negative effects on individuals. As social media are diffused across the globe and the speed of Internet connection grows at an exponential pace, ever more people have to grapple with the problem of Internet dependency. The ability to keep in touch with friends and relatives scattered around the world or to express one’s opinions maintaining full anonymity, the absence of rigid censorship, and multitudes of potential interlocutors, all made social media an arena for self-actualization for many people. However, at the time when more than 750 million people check their Facebook profiles everyday and Facebook users’ share of all selfies uploaded to social media oscillates between 45% and 50%, it is time to study side effects of social media use. The social networking web sites have already become a substitute for real-life communications to many people. It is disturbing that too many people today prefer to muddle away balmy summer evenings, not to mention those when the weather is rough, over promoting themselves in social networks in lieu of having a delightful t?te-?-t?te with their loved ones or just working on real-life projects. What is more important, an uncontrolled use of social networks develops into a pernicious habit, which in its turn degenerates into a serious dependency. It seems like the hitherto-progressive young generation has got bogged down in a quagmire of social networks. Under these circumstances, the metaphor “between the keyboard and social media sites” has become as illustrative as the well-established ones, including “between a hard place and a rock”, “between the hammer and the anvil” and “between the upper and the nether millstone”, with all suggesting that a person has got problems.
It is a matter of fact that social networks are overrun with narcissists, and Facebook is no exclusion to the rule. This study has established that people use Facebook not only to converse with their friends and acquaintances, but also to boost their self-esteem. Oftentimes, individuals do this with such great ?clat that others may suspect that they are being narcissistic. This study has found that prompted by desire to create an ideal image, some Facebook users update their statuses regularly and upload their most charming pictures as frequently as possible. These individuals are convinced that other people yearn to know what is swirling in their minds, what heights of success they have achieved, and what emotions they experience. Similarly, it has been found that the participants of this study shared myriad posts on their profiles to beguile others into a false sense that their life was a maelstrom of pleasant emotions. It is interesting that these individuals are often divorced from the reality insomuch as they become hostages to their own whims and virtual image. Having created an ideal image on Facebook, which does not correspond to the real character of the user, people develop more and more complexes and distance themselves from the real world to a dangerous degree. As a result, they get stuck in their own phantasmagoric, albeit very comfortable, world.
Although many participants indicated a series of psychological benefits derived from browsing Facebook, the most popular social network, this study also found many detrimental effects associated with the use thereof. Limiting their sphere of communication to online interlocutors, the so-called netizens, i.e. avid users of social networks, become uncouth and farouche in real world. Whereas some Facebook users showcase themselves subliminally, others behave in an ostentatious manner on purpose. Despite the fact that the sample was rather small, this study has discovered a number of correlations between heavy Facebook use and narcissism. First of all, the best way for a narcissist to raise their spirits is to upload an adorable photograph to Facebook and count likes. The more ‘likes’ a photograph gathers, the happier a narcissist feels. Similarly, if this picture was taken by a seasoned photographer and enhanced via Photoshop thereupon, a narcissist would feel even more ecstatic. Second, if a person compliments a narcissist in private messages, they often ask this person to post the same words on a wall or under a particular picture, so that all and sundry on Facebook would know how lovable this person is. They simply cannot but succumb to the temptation to ask for this. Third, narcissists often dither about accepting invitations to parties or other outings and expect the organizers to beseech them to go. However, when narcissists accept an invitation, they immediately slip into a reverie of how their Facebook profile would look like with the new photos taken at the party. Sometimes, such reveries are the only raison d’?tre behind their consent to go. Fourth, this study found that solipsistic social networks users know the exact number of their Facebook friends and, by chance, followers on Twitter.
In the course of this survey, it transpired that individuals with a propensity for narcissism had usually, though not necessarily, more friends on Facebook, and every new friend request only fed this propensity. However, the present study also found that beneath this cherished, albeit false, veneer of popularity lay something worrisome about narcissists. Solipsistic Facebook users would send friend requests neither to their acquaintances nor to strangers. It was established that they accepted requests both from acquaintances and strangers with the same alacrity. Next, the author of this study deduced that Facebook users prone to narcissism used hashtags, i.e. words or unspaced phrases with the # symbol attached thereto, and updated statuses more often than their ordinary peers. In this context, it should be noted that frequent status updates constitute a direct indication of solipsism. Indeed, the more updates a narcissist makes, the bigger slice of his/her friends’ newsfeed he/she conquers. All this indicates that individuals with a proclivity for narcissism and pomposity spend more time on Facebook and other social networks because of their unswerving belief that other people want to know what they are up to.
Thus, there are ample grounds to believe that social networks induce individuals deliberately to fan an unseemly hysteria around their personae. This study arrived at the conclusion that some Facebook users posted content about them to emphasize their importance, social status, intellectual heft as well as attract attention. However, the problem is that narcissists impart an idealistic vision of themselves to their online friends. The fact that they tamper with the pictures prior to uploading them vitiates the benign intentions of such people, if any. This study has found that the membership in Facebook groups is also an illustrative indicator of the narcissistic tendencies in a person.
This study has also found that feeling of envy is a close relative of narcissism. Indeed, individuals prone to narcissism and utter narcissists alike stare in a mixture of envy and admiration at the pictures of their friends basking in the sun on the picturesque sandy beaches of a tropical island. Literally speaking, social networks bombard users with pictures of ideal life, luxurious cars and houses, exotic vacations, grandiose marriages and romantic honeymoons, which provoke the development of Internet-voyeurism in some people. As a result, they begin to harbor suspicions that the life of other people is better than their own lives, and this mere idea sickens them. When taken too far, this paranoia may administer a coup de grace to a narcissist’s sense of self-esteem. However, this study has established that individuals with a proclivity for narcissism do not begin to despond immediately. On the contrary, they embark on a quest to make similarly adorable pictures, so as not to lag behind. This is one of the reasons why narcissistic Facebook users take pictures of gourmetfood only. Bearing in mind that very few people upload photos of mashed potatoes and scrambled eggs, the conclusion arises that the majority of users showing off their food are in a way as narcissistic. It is a matter of fact that narcissists would not ever upload a picture of themselves eating in a sordid bistro clad in threadbare clothes. They would prefer a picture where they are garbed in soign?e clothing while eating at a recherch? restaurant. Considering that envy runs in tandem with narcissism, these findings clearly indicate that social media use may be inimical to the proper psychological development of an individual.
However, envy is not the worst implication of using social networking web sites. This study has shown that social media are responsible for the development of anti-social behavior in humans. Indeed, some participants admitted to having exhibited anti-social tendencies on Facebook. For instance, seven participants acknowledged that they were disappointed when they learned that nobody, or very few people, liked their newly uploaded pictures and freshly updated statuses. Three out of these seven participants intimated that their disappointment verged on the feeling of unbridled fury. Two participants confessed to having deleted people from their list of friends after they had written negative comments under the participants’ posts. The willingness to retaliate against negative comments is a clear indication that narcissists are insusceptible, but not imperturbable, to the criticism from all sides.
At the outset of this study, the author advanced a hypothesis that scoring high on the “exhibitionism” component category of the Narcissistic Personality Inventory would mean that a person was consumed by the idea of promoting themselves, while scoring high on the “exploitativeness” component category would positively correlate with aggressive and anti-social behavior. The study has provided consistent evidence in support of these hypotheses. It has been found also that self-esteem is not correlated to self-presentation activities and negatively correlated to some kinds of anti-social behavior. Whereas the majority of participants of the present study recognized that Facebook was a convenient tool for boosting self-esteem, they failed to acknowledge that it was also a minefield of potential hazards.
It is quite interesting that narcissists comport themselves differently in real life and in social networks. Thus, the scrupulous analysis of the participants’ Facebook profiles and a series of thorough interviews with each of them have revealed a number of incongruities between their communication patterns in the virtual and non-virtual environments. The idea that narcissists enjoy talking about themselves has been repeated so often that it has already taken on the aura of conventional wisdom. Therefore, it does not take a psychologist to “buttonhole” a narcissist and get him/her talking. Not all the participants of this study spoke about their use of social networks with the same enthusiasm. The emphasis was put on the most ebullient and effusive ones, because they looked like the most suitable candidates for the status of a narcissist. The present study has found that potential narcissists use myriads of first-person singular pronouns in an extemporaneous conversation in a bid to attract attention. If they see that the excessive use of first-person singular pronouns is that of little use in attracting the attention of their interlocutor, a few expletives might explode from their mouths. However, if everything goes smoothly, they do not fall back on obscenities and aggressive words at all. At the same time, while posting content on Facebook, participants preferred to use profanities and aggressive terms instead of first-person pronouns to capture attention of their friends.
An interconnection has been found between online behavior of those participants who waxed angry about the lack of attention on the part of their Facebook friends and the way they conducted themselves during interviews. These participants turned out to be more difficile than their non-narcissistic counterparts. The present study also found that these persons essayed to be more independent and refused to hearken to advices of their online friends. They could not resist the blandishments of a friend or a foe. There was also one female participant, who shared rather innocent posts on her Facebook profile and did not launch any charms offensives to win the attention of her Facebook friends. It became apparent that she was not quite the unassuming ing?nue as she pretended to be.
Considering that narcissistic persons use social media as a platform for maintaining their inflated self-esteem, while Facebook exposes social networks users to heightened level of narcissistic personality, the questions arose whether social networks, in general, and Facebook, in particular, contributed to growing levels of narcissism over time. The evidence adduced in this study indicates that social networks have an untoward effect on the incidence of narcissism among Internet users. At the same time, this research has encountered a number of obstacles that prevent the author from stating unequivocally that it is the widespread presence of social networking websites that constitute the major cause of narcissism. These obstacles are described in the next paragraph.
Naturally, this study has several important limitations. First of all, the present study uses a French sample with an insufficient distribution of age and educational levels. More diverse samples of Facebook users not limited to students could provide more insightful observations on how the use of social networking web sites and narcissism are correlated. By the same token, the participants of this study do not reflect a random sample, as they were recruited at the Sophia Antipolis campus of Skema Business School. Subsequently, participants may share similar characteristics as Skema Business School students. Moreover, this study has assessed activity and presentation primarily on Facebook and uttered a few words about Twitter, but did not examine the variety of other popular social networks. The so-called netizens may present their personality somewhat differently on MySpace, because it is more appealing in terms of the aesthetics and the available features. There are no doubts whatsoever that user interfaces have a profound impact on the individuals’ behavior. Furthermore, this study relied solely on the use of a French sample, leaving the question of cross-cultural university open. Second, there are inherent weaknesses in the use of the Narcissistic Personality Inventory questionnaire and Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale test, because participants could hide the truth by wittingly misleading the author of the study. Little could be done to dissuade participants from giving false answers to the proposed questions. This means that the veracity of the study hinged largely on the conscientiousness of participants. Similarly, many questions in the oral interview required participants to think about the frequency of their Facebook use, and there are not any guarantees that the answers given reflected the reality. These caveats of the present study need to be addressed.
The big imponderable, of course, is whether Facebook inter se nurtures narcissism in emotionally stable people without an inclination for narcissistic behaviors. This study has found that social networks lead to narcissism, but it also found that the majority of narcissistic Facebook users were in love with themselves even before Facebook was launched. To answer this question, it is necessary to investigate a sample with lower median age. Next, the manifestations of narcissism were examined from the perspective of a single person, namely, the author of this paper. The assessment of these manifestations by other individuals, such as participants’ friends and potential employers, would also have a beneficial effect. Another limitation of the present study is that it did not dwell on the personality types of those people who are vulnerable to narcissistic tendencies. Further research is required to explore the interconnections between personality types and digital narcissism.
Judging by the highest standards, the present study of correlations between social media use and narcissism dovetails perfectly with the previous findings investigating the same problematique. Simultaneously, it has arrived at a number of unique conclusions. First of all, it is weird that social networks are called “social”, for, in fact, they are but a collection of egocentric people. People seldom use social networks to make friends with strangers. For instance, Facebook has barred people from sending friends’ requests to strangers under a false pretense of protecting privacy of its users. As a corollary of this, Facebook profile owners concentrate their attention on themselves. Thus, there are sufficient grounds to imply that Facebook is something of a curate’s egg, with privacy overriding all other concerns of users. The way, through which people build their profiles, shows how they conceive of themselves in real life. Undoubtedly, there is nothing wrong about paying attention to one’s own image, but there must be a limit. After all, as grisly as it sounds, narcissism cultivates vanity, inflated sense of self-esteem, egoism and indifference to the problems of others. It is crucial that people should understand that beneath a veneer of narcissism often flows an undercurrent of inferiority complex. The bottom line is that social networks do not exactly cause narcissism; they simply help users unleash their solipsistic potential. One way or other, this means that people as a society are growing more voyeuristic and narcissistic because of the growing popularity of social networks. It is patently obvious that the state-of-the-arts means of communication and social networks have a detrimental effect on the psychological health of individuals. Lest there should be no narcissism epidemic in the future, it is imperative that parents inculcate a feeling of reality in their children well before they update their first status. This is probably the only chance to wean future generations off heavy social network use that cultivates narcissism in people.