A small new study shows how exactly we use social media to feed our egos.
The research, published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, shows that Twitter fuels younger adults’ narcissistic tendencies by acting as a megaphone for their thoughts, while Facebook fuels middle aged adults’ narcissistic tendencies by serving as a mirror where they can curate images of themselves.
“Young people may overevaluate the importance of their own opinions,” study researcher Elliot Panek, who just received his doctorate in communication studies from the University of Michigan, said in a statement. “Through Twitter, they’re trying to broaden their social circles and broadcast their views about a wide range of topics and issues.”
For the study, researchers examined two populations: the first was 486 college students, most of whom were female, with an average age of 19, and the second was 93 adults who were mostly white females, with an average age of 35. The college students answered questions about social media use and took personality tests to assess their narcissistic tendencies, while the adults took online surveys.
Researchers found associations between scoring higher on certain traits of narcissism and increased use of Twitter (more posts) among the college students. And for the adults, narcissistic traits were linked with more Facebook status updates.
Of course, at this point it should hardly be surprising that social media is a reflection of narcissistic tendencies. A study that came out last year in the journal Personality and Individual Differences showed that people who score higher on a narcissism questionnaire are also more frequent Facebook posters and photo taggers, and had more Facebook friends, The Guardian reported.
HuffPost blogger Lisa Firestone, a psychology expert and author of “Conquer Your Critical Voice,” wrote in a post that the self-promotional nature of these social media sites, as well as an increase in instilling self-esteem in millennial generations, could be promoting this phenomenon. She wrote:
While it is certain that online forms of communication and social networks do affect individual’s mental health, the solution to fostering a less narcissistic generation is to instill a healthy sense of true esteem offline before anyone is old enough to post their first status update. Only by being less self-obsessed and placing more value on personal relating can we impart these values to the next generation.