Uploading countless selfies, writing intimate status updates, and checking your notifications every other minute seems like just a part of modern-day life, right? These are the markers of the relationship we all have with social media now. They are the norm; nothing to worry yourself about late at night. Or is it?
According to research by experts at the University of Georgia, there may be more to it than that. The study, published in the journal Psychology of Popular Media Culture in 2018, reviewed the results of 62 different studies of social media use. The findings suggested some unmistakable correlations between social media use and what’s known as “grandiose narcissism.”
Social media—the spotlight for our egos
For starters, social media is already intrinsically linked with our egos. What started out merely as a way to communicate with one another has quickly turned into a means of self-promotion online. While it’s certainly not true for all of us, there are some who use these platforms as a way to showcase themselves, and almost always in their very best light. Why wouldn’t they? After all, it’s a quick and easy way to get some much-needed attention from everyone from friends and family to strangers and even celebs. (Concerned you might be addicted to social media? Here’s expert advice on how to unplug.)
It’s how you use the platform that counts
So, when does social media use become a problem? The review in Psychology of Popular Media Culture found four common traits associated with severe egotism: how long people spend on social media, how often they tweet or update statuses, how many friends or followers they have, and how many selfies they tend to post. If you tick all of the above boxes, it likely sends signals about your personality.
All of these online actions have one thing in common: They are all ways in which we try to promote ourselves online. The more often you partake in them, the bigger your ego is likely to be. When people post pictures of themselves or constant status updates, it’s actively asking for a response and some form of attention.
Grandiose narcissists vs. vulnerable narcissists
It’s important to understand that the above study applied only to one specific type of person—”grandiose narcissists,” who are usually more extroverted, callous, and genuinely self-absorbed than their counterparts, the so-called “vulnerable narcissists,” whose egotism comes from their own insecurities. Vulnerable narcissists, according to the study, were not similarly obsessed with social media.
It’s important to note that social media is not turning people into egotists. “This is not evidence that social media causes narcissism or vice versa,” explains Jessica McCain, PhD, psychologist and analyst with Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta. “Theoretically, we suspect that individuals with pre-existing narcissism are drawn to social media, but the present evidence only establishes that the two are related.”
The takeaway here is that social media is not actually the problem, merely a symptom. If you already have a narcissistic personality, chances are that you will display some of the characteristics mentioned in the study. In short, it’s far more likely that those who already have overly inflated egos will overuse these sites on a regular basis.
Next, find out what could happen if social media disappeared.