Social media can be a fun way to connect with friends and family, but new research suggests that if you enjoy Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram a little too much, it may be a sign of narcissism. The study found a “weak to moderate” link between social media use and a specific form of narcissism. Considering that past research has linked social media use with decreased wellbeing and depression, it may be time for you to scale back.
The study found that while all narcissists seem to have a preference for social media, grandiose narcissists, ones who narcissism is rooted in their superiority complex, frequent these websites more than vulnerable narcissists, whose narcissism is rooted in their insecurities. In addition, the team found a link between the number of online friends and the number of photos uploaded, and the degree of narcissism found in an individual.
For the research, the team conducted a meta-analysis of 57 studies looking at social media use and personality traits of more than 25,000 individuals from all over the world. According to the Personality Disorder Awareness Network, narcissism, or narcissistic personality disorder, is a mental health condition that causes people to be obsessed with themselves, whether this be their power, beauty, or prestige. The disorder can develop from parents overpraising a child, or on the other hand, can be a form of self-preservation for extremely insecure individuals, sometimes as a result of child abuse.
The researchers could not figure out whether more narcissism was the product of more social media platforms, or if the narcissist always existed and social media simply gave these individuals a new outlet to express themselves.
"We suggest that the link between narcissism and the behaviour in social media follows the pattern of a self-reinforcing spiral," said Markus Appel in a statement, explaining that an individual personality controls the social media activities and these activities in turn reinforce the personality.
Regardless of whether social media use can cause narcissism, past research has shown that spending too much time on these online platforms can decrease mental wellbeing and even cause depression. A 2016 study found that people who checked their social media most frequently were 2.7 times more likely to be depressed than those who checked less frequently. In addition, individuals who spent the most amount of time on social media throughout the week were 1.7 times more likely to have depression.
Source: Gnambs T, Appel M. Narcissism and Social Networking Behavior: A Meta-Analysis. Journal of Personality . 2017