Updated: Narcissism and social media–the connection

Since the early days of social media, researchers have looked at the relationship between narcissism and social media use.  Narcissism is a personality type “marked by a grandiose sense of self-importance, low communion with others, and feelings of entitlement.”  People with extreme forms of narcissism may be diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) which is “characterized by a pervasive pattern of grandiose behaviors, excessive need for admiration, and empathy deficits.”

Interest in this topic has increased since a significant portion of the use of social media seems to fit the needs of narcissists; plus, some individuals prominent in politics, entertainment, technology, business, and other areas seem to show strong narcissistic tendencies.

McCain and Campbell (2018) did a meta-analytic review of over 60 studies (since 2008) that have been published in this area.  Their findings suggest that grandiose narcissism is positively related to the amount of time spent using social media, the frequency of new posts and tweets, the number of friends and followers, and the frequency of posting pictures of themselves (selfies).

In other words, people exhibiting grandiose narcissism spend more time, post or tweet more often, have larger numbers of friends and followers, and more frequently post their own pictures on social media.  We may all recognize individuals who either fit that description or trend in this direction.

Singh, Farley, and Donahue (2018) looked especially at the relationship between narcissism and the frequency of sending/posting selfies.  They found–like McCain and Campbell–that grandiose narcissism was most consistently associated with various social media behaviors, including “frequency of selfie posting, perceived attractiveness of selfies, tags/comment/like behaviors”, etc.

And, Andreassen, et al. (2017) determined that addictive use of social media was tied to narcissism and boosting low self-esteem.

Narcissism and social media use is a burgeoning area for study with potentially broad implications for our society and the ways that we collectively make choices and decisions–political, social, economic, and more.

Featured articles:

*Andreassen, C. S., Pallesen, S., & Griffiths, M. D. (2017). The relationship between addictive use of social media, narcissism, and self-esteem: Findings from a large national survey. Addictive Behaviors, 64, 287-293.  [PDF] [Cited by]

“Social media has become an increasingly popular leisure activity over the last decade. Although most people’s social media use is non-problematic, a small number of users appear to engage in social media excessively and/or compulsively. The main objective of this study was to examine the associations between addictive use of social media, narcissism, and self-esteem. A cross-sectional convenient sample of 23,532 Norwegians (Mage = 35.8 years; range = 16–88 years) completed an open web-based survey including the Bergen Social Media Addiction Scale (BSMAS), the Narcissistic Personality Inventory-16, and the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale. Results demonstrated that lower age, being a woman, not being in a relationship, being a student, lower education, lower income, lower self-esteem, and narcissism were associated with higher scores on the BSMAS, explaining a total of 17.5% of the variance. Although most effect sizes were relatively modest, the findings supported the notion of addictive social media use reflecting a need to feed the ego (i.e., narcissistic personality traits) and an attempt to inhibit a negative self-evaluation (i.e., self-esteem). The results were also consistent with demographic predictions and associations taken from central theories concerning “addiction”, indicating that women may tend to develop more addictive use of activities involving social interaction than men. However, the cross-sectional study design makes inferences about directionality impossible.”

*McCain, J. L., & Campbell, W. K. (2018). Narcissism and social media use: A meta-analytic review. Psychology of Popular Media Culture., 7(3), 308-327.   [PDF] [Cited by]

“The relationship between narcissism and social media use has been a topic of study since the advent of the first social media websites. In the present manuscript, the authors review the literature published to date on the topic and outline 2 potential models to explain the pattern of findings. Data from 62 samples of published and unpublished research (N = 13,430) are meta-analyzed with respect to the relationships between grandiose and vulnerable narcissism and (a) time spent on social media, (b) frequency of status updates/tweets on social media, (c) number of friends/followers on social media, and (d) frequency of posting pictures of self or selfies on social media. Findings suggest that grandiose narcissism is positively related to all 4 indices (rs = .11–.20), although culture and social media platform significantly moderated the results. Vulnerable narcissism was not significantly related to social media use (rs = .05–.42), although smaller samples make these effects less certain. Limitations of the current literature and recommendations for future research are discussed.”

*Singh, S., Farley, S. D., & Donahue, J. J. (2018). Grandiosity on display: Social media behaviors and dimensions of narcissism. Personality and Individual Differences, 134, 308-313.  [Cited by]

“This study examined the relationship between dimensions of narcissism and selfie posting/sending frequency and other self-promoting behaviors on social media. Participants (N = 124) completed an online survey of narcissistic traits and social media use. Global narcissism was significantly correlated with numerous social media behaviors, including frequency of selfie posting, perceived attractiveness of selfies, tag/comment/like behaviors, as well as variables specific to individual social media platforms. Among narcissism dimensions, Grandiose Exhibitionism exhibited the most consistent association with social media behaviors. The Leadership/Authority dimension generally demonstrated the weakest correlations with selfie posting/sending frequency and other social media behaviors. Additionally, PROCESS analyses revealed that traits reflecting global narcissism, Grandiose Exhibitionism, and Entitlement/Exploitativeness were associated with selfie posting/sending frequency through a motivation for others to show interest and admiration. Implications for this research and future directions are discussed.”

Questions?  Please let me know (engelk@grinnell.edu).

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