Facebook’s narcissistic side

Nieuws | de redactie
19 maart 2012 | “Socially disruptive” narcissists are more likely to accumulate friends on Facebook, befriend strangers and react aggressively to derogatory comments, American research shows. What are the upsides and downsides of social networking?

Christopher Carpenter published a study in the journal “Personalityand Individual Differences” directly linking “socially disruptive”narcissism to Facebook behavior. Concretely, he showed thatnarcissists are significantly more likely to accumulate a greatnumber of Facebook friends.

Befriending strangers, aggressive reactions

Carpenter conducted psychometric tests testing for two negativecharacter attributes of narcissism: Entitlement/Exploitivenesswhich entails “a sense of deserving respect and a willingness tomanipulate and take advantage of others” and GrandioseExhibitionism (feeling the need to be at the center of attention).The author then surveyed 294 study participants aged between 18 and65 on their Facebook use.

Individuals scoring high on either of these factors morefrequently updated their newsfeeds with status updates, taggedthemselves, and changed their profile picture. They were also morelikely to accept friend requests from strangers and had a tendencyto get easily offended by derogatory comments of others.

Correlation, not necessarily causation

Carpenter commented that “if Facebook is to be a place wherepeople go to repair their damaged ego and seek social support, itis vitally important to discover the potentially negativecommunication one might find on Facebook and the kinds of peoplelikely to engage in them. Ideally, people will engage in pro-socialFacebooking rather than anti-social Facebooking.”

The author nevertheless cautions to interpret the link betweennarcissism and Facebook behavior in a causal way. Whether Facebookcreates narcissism or whether narcissism simply finds a platform onFacebook is not clear. The effects measured might also havesomething to do with the sample chosen.

American students increasingly narcissistic

Dr. Viv Vignoles (social psychology expert at Sussex University)commented that past research has shown “clear evidence” thatAmerican college students grow increasingly narcissistic. “Whetherthe same is true of non-college students or of young people inother countries, such as the UK, remains an open question, as faras I know.”

Another U.S. study recently indicated that narcissism mightnot be a particularly healthy character trait either. “Even thoughnarcissists have grandiose self-perceptions, they also have fragileviews of themselves, and often resort to defensive strategies likeaggression when their sense of superiority is threatened.” This maylead to increased blood pressure which is known to be a risk factorfor cardiovascular diseases, e.g. heart attacks.

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