In the Greek legend, Narcissus loved gazing at his own reflection. Today, according to Canadian psychologists, he’d be more likely to try and persuade others to look at him by posting constant status updates on Facebook.
A new study from York University has found that both narcissists and people with low self-esteem gravitate toward Facebook as a self-promotional tool and tend to be heavier users of the site.
Soraya Mehdizadeh examined the online habits and personalities of 100 Facebook users between 18 and 25 years old. She found that individuals higher in narcissism and lower in self-esteem spent more time on the site and filled their pages with more self-promotional content.
“We all know people like this. They’re updating their status every five minutes and the photos they post are very carefully construed,” says Mehdizadeh. “The question is, are these really accurate representations of the individual or are they merely a projection of who the individual wants to be?”
Mehdizadeh examined participants’ Facebook pages, looking for signs of self-promotion in the ‘about me’ section, the main photo, the first 20 pictures on the ‘view photos of me’ section, notes, and status updates.
She defined self-promotion as any descriptive or visual information that attempted to persuade others of one’s own positive qualities. These could include anything from facial expression – striking a pose or making a face – right up to picture enhancement using photo editing software.
In the written sections, Mehdizadeh looked for positive adjectives, and self-promoting mottos.
She then gave the participants standard personality tests – the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale and the Narcissism Personality Inventory.Mehdizadeh says she was struck by the fact that those with lower self-esteem were more apt to use this social networking tool.
“I believe the next question to be answered is whether or not the use of such websites could be used to improve one’s self-esteem and overall sense of well-being. This sort of finding may have great implications in the lives of the socially anxious or depressed,” she says.
Mehdizadeh also found that men displayed more self-promotional content in the ‘about me’ and notes sections, whereas women demonstrated more self-promotion in the main photo section.
The study’s available here.