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Frequent Facebook Users Aren’t Necessarily Narcissistic

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people who use Facebook frequently are not necessarily narcissistic iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Just when you started worrying about Facebook harming your health, new studies are showing that previous research may be exaggerating what Facebook can do to your mental health.

A recent study from the University of North Carolina Wilmington suggested that people who use Facebook aren’t necessarily more narcissistic, just more open, according to a news release.

The study focused on college students, and concluded that most college students are on Facebook and other social media sites. If anything, the definition of narcissism needs to be updated to consider social media usage as a norm.

In addition, people are sharing more information about their lives with more people as a result of Facebook, and that should not necessarily be considered narcissistic, but a part of a new “individualistic culture.”

“Their findings showed that instead of using social media to show off their ego, Facebook users used the site to share their lives with those in their friend circle similar to how they would share photos and stories with friends in person,” according to the news release.

A New York Times article about the study stated that some results suggest that certain Facebook users are more likely to be narcissistic, such as people with an unusually large number of friends. Also, people who use Twitter to Tweet about themselves appear to have higher narcissism scores.

A study from earlier this year also suggested that the more friends people have on Facebook, the higher the possibility they are “socially disruptive” narcissists, according to an article in The Guardian.

Besides having a lot of friends on Facebook, people who scored high on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory tended to post updates and tag themselves more often, as well as switch profile pictures constantly, among other characteristics.

Tom Butero, a licensed social worker and site director of Child and Family Services, a social services agency in Massachusetts, said in an email that it’s important to consider that only in 2008 at least one other research study had completely different results associating Facebook with narcissism.

Also, he doesn’t necessarily agree that the definition of narcissism should be redefined to take into consideration social media usage and increasing openness as a norm.

“I don’t think the definition should go so far as to be that specific,” Butero said. “Grandiosity is one of several diagnostic criteria for [narcissistic personality disorder], and that can take many forms. Like most behaviors, the use of social media is subjective and contextual and could be reflective of narcissistic tendencies. Social media in its extreme form can certainly be considered as an additional measure of narcissistic behavior.”

He said social media may or may not be good for mental health, depending on the way it’s used.

“I think anything that goes beyond personal stories, pictures of your children, etc. and starts to infringe upon others in a negative way is not a good thing,” Butero said. “Trashing your boss, or an ex-partner, for example, for the whole world to see may, at the time, feel cathartic, but it can also do damage to the other person ... it’s all subjective and contextual.”

He has a suggestion for people who are trying to avoid any narcissistic tendencies on social media sites.

“In terms of social media, I think you have to ask yourself, ‘what do I want to know or see about someone?’ and use that as a guide for your own posts,” Butero said. “Tell me about your child’s graduation or that big promotion you just got; post pictures of your pet doing something cute, but I don’t really need to know that you just had breakfast and went grocery shopping, unless you met Elvis in the parking lot.”


University of North Carolina Wilmington. With Social Networking Sites Becoming More and More Ubiquitous, It May Be Time to Redefine What it Means to be Narcissistic. Web. July 17, 2012. http://uncw.edu/articles/2012/06/with-social-networking-sites-becoming-more-and-more-ubiquitous,-it-may-be-time-to-redefine-what-it-means-to-be-narcissistic

Butero, Tom. Email interview. July 19, 2012. http://child-familyservices.org/leadership/

Parker-Pope, Tara. Does Facebook Turn People Into Narcissists? Web. July 19, 2012. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/17/does-facebook-turn-people-into-narcissists/

Pearse, Damien. Facebook’s ‘dark side’: study finds link to socially aggressive narcissism. July 19, 2012. http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2012/mar/17/facebook-dark-side-study-aggressive-narcissism?CMP=twt_gu

Reviewed July 19, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.