All those "status updates" and "tweets" that people post as they clamour to be
part of the online social network may reflect a troubling trend toward
self-absorbed behaviour in the United States, a new study suggests.
The University of Michigan researchers examined whether narcissism was
related to the number of daily Facebook and Twitter postings by 486 college
students and 93 adults, and to the amount of time they spent on each site.
The college students' average age was 19, and three-quarters were women. The
average age of the adults was 35, and most of them were white women.
"Among young adult college students, we found that those who scored higher in
certain types of narcissism posted more often on Twitter," study author Elliot
Panek, who recently completed his doctorate in communication studies, said in a
university news release. "But among middle-aged adults from the general
population, narcissists posted more frequent status updates on Facebook."
Facebook functions as a mirror for narcissistic adults, Panek explained.
"It's about curating your own image, how you are seen, and also checking on
how others respond to this image," he explained. "Middle-aged adults usually
have already formed their social selves, and they use social media to gain
approval from those who are already in their social circles."
Twitter is the social media tool of choice for narcissistic college
"Young people may over evaluate 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 findings suggest that narcissistic college students and adults use social
media in different ways to inflate their egos and control other people's
perceptions of them, according to Panek.
He and his colleagues weren't able to determine whether narcissism leads to
increased use of social media, whether social media use leads to narcissism, or
whether other factors explain the association.
The American Psychological Association has more about narcissism.