Surprise: Social Media Use Associated With Narcissism, Other Great Qualities

Narcissism, feelings of superiority, and vanity are all innate characteristics of humanity, but social media may serve to encourage these tendencies even more, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Michigan’s Department of Communication Studies and its Institute for Social Research.

The study, published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior and titled “Mirror or Megaphone?: How relationships between narcissism and social networking site use differ on Facebook and Twitter,” investigates how two major social networks, Facebook and Twitter, are used by different age groups displaying different narcissistic traits.

According to the study, college students who displayed a “superiority” complex were more likely to favor Twitter, apparently as a platform for boasting, showing off, and generally broadcasting themselves, while adults with a superiority complex were more likely to favor Facebook, which they use as a virtual mirror, carefully “curating” their own image and watching how people react to updates, photos, and so on.

One of the study’s authors, Elliott Panek, speculated that college-aged narcissists favor Twitter because “Young people may overvalue the importance of their own opinions. Through Twitter, they're trying to broaden their social circles and broadcast their views about a wide range of topics and issues.” Meanwhile, “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.”

Back in April, I wrote about a study from UCLA’s Children’s Digital Media Center that found kids who use social media tend to be more interested in becoming famous than peers who don’t use social media. And in October of last year, I wrote about a study by professors at Columbia University and the University of Pittsburgh, who found that using Facebook increases our feelings of self-confidence, but decreases our capacity for self-control.

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