Commentary

Social Media Is Ideal For Vulnerable Narcissists

While it’s become cliché to say that heavy social media users are narcissistic, did you know that there are actually two different kinds of narcissists? Take this quick quiz and find out what kind of narcissist you are! 

Okay, JK, there’s no quiz. But there are two kinds of narcissists, according to psychologists, who distinguish between “grandiose” and “vulnerable” narcissists, and it turns out that individuals in the latter category are more likely to be heavy social media users and also more likely to become addicted to social media.

For a new study published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, titled “Grandiose and Vulnerable Narcissists: Who Is at Higher Risk for Social Networking Addiction?,” researchers surveyed 535 European college students with three tests designed to measure narcissistic personality traits and frequency of social media use. They then sorted the respondents into three groups, including non-narcissists and the two types of narcissist mentioned above.

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Grandiose or “overt” narcissists display behaviors typically associated with a high degree of confidence, including arrogance, dominance, exhibitionism, and aggression. By contrast, vulnerable or “covert” narcissists are also highly self-focused but with lower self-esteem, tending to be hypersensitive, defensive, and shy in direct interactions with other people. Both types of narcissist share qualities like a sense of entitlement and grandiose fantasies; however men are more likely to be grandiose narcissists and women are more likely to be vulnerable narcissists.

The researchers found that individuals in the “vulnerable narcissist” category gravitate to social media, apparently because it presents them with an ideal way to interact with other people: among other things, social media allows vulnerable narcissists to present a carefully crafted image of themselves to gain the admiration of other users, for example by uploading attractive photos and promoting their own content, while concealing any qualities they consider unflattering.

This behavior also appears to be correlated with a higher propensity for “problematic” use of social networks by vulnerable narcissists than non-narcissists and grandiose narcissists, including addictive usage patterns, the authors wrote.

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