TORONTO – If Facebook is a mirror, then Twitter acts as a megaphone for narcissists, according to a recent study examining how social media fuels egocentrism.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, found that young adults who exhibited narcissistic behaviours were more likely to turn to Twitter for an ego-boost, while their middle-aged counterparts posted to Facebook more often.
Researchers found that Facebook acts as a mirror for narcissistic adults, fuelling the ability to enhance and evaluate their power through ‘likes’ and comments.
“It’s about curating your own image, how you are seen, and also checking on how others respond to this image,” said researcher Elliot Panek in a press release.
“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.”
You’re so vain; I bet you think this tweet is about you
For younger generations, Twitter provides the opportunity for narcissists to broaden their social circles and share their opinions on social issues. But according to the study that opportunity helps fuel somewhat of a superiority complex in some young adults.
“Young people may over-evaluate the importance of their own opinions,” says Panek.
The study was broken into two parts to examine if narcissism was related to the amount of time spent reading comments and posts on social media.
The first part of the study evaluated 486 college students, with an average age of 19, who underwent a personality assessment to examine traits such as exhibitionism, superiority, and self-sufficiency. Participants were then asked questions about their social media use.
The second part of the study had 93 women, with an average age of 35, answer an online survey about their social media use.
“It’s important to analyze how often social media users actually post updates on sites, along with how much time they spend reading the posts and comments of others,” says Panek.
It is one of the first studies to compare the relationship between narcissism and social media in different age groups.