Study: Narcissists thrive on social media, engage in various tell-tale behaviors

WÜRZBURG, Germany — If you feel like those Facebook friends who constantly post photos or updates about their daily adventures might be a bit full of themselves, you may just be right. A new study finds that certain behaviors people engage in on a social network may determine who among your friends are narcissists, and who are not.

Researchers at the University of Würzburg and the Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories, Bamberg, both in Germany, conducted a meta-analysis of 57 previous studies, in which more than 25,000 individuals were examined in total.

The researchers made a point to not only define narcissism, but draw a distinction between two very different types of narcissists.

Woman checking Facebook
New research shows that not only are narcissists drawn to social media, they’re more likely to self-promote and pursue large amounts of friends, among other behaviors.

Narcissists, according to the researchers, “think of themselves as being exceptionally talented, remarkable and successful. They love to present themselves to other people and seek approval from them.”

The two types of narcissists they distinguished were considered either “vulnerable” or “grandiose.” The former are emotionally sensitive, and struggle “with insecurity, fragile self-esteem, and social withdrawal.”

Grandiose narcissists, meanwhile, give off an air of being highly confident, and can be very vindictive. In formulating their hypothesis, the researchers posited that it was grandiose narcissists who were most active on social media.

They expressed their belief that such platforms would give grandiose narcissists an easy vehicle to reach a large audience, all while possessing control over the information that they indeed shared.

While previous studies on their own had found contradictory or non-existent links between social media use and displaying narcissistic traits, the German researchers found a few significant links between the two.

In particular, they found a positive correlation between one’s propensity to self-promote and pursue having a large number of friends or followers on social media and possessing narcissistic traits.

Narcissists spend more time on social media, in general, and are more likely to post a lot of photos.

While the researchers had hypothesized that cultural factors— such as it being taboo to be overly-individualistic— could influence one to use social media to a larger extent as an outlet for their narcissistic inclinations, evidence for this belief was limited.

The study’s findings were published in the Journal of Personality.