SWANSEA, Wales — Constantly posting selfies on Instagram or Facebook is certainly a sign of a self-absorption, but the oft-annoying behavior can make swollen egos even worse. That’s because people who flood their social media pages with selfies show increased levels of narcissism over time, a new study finds.
One of the key characteristics of narcissism, of course, is the need for admiration and praise, which is often achieved through forms of showing off — such as posting selfies. Narcissists possess a strong sense of self-importance and generally feel entitled, immune to simple rules or societal norms.
This latest study conducted by researchers from Swansea University and Milan University recruited 74 adults between ages 18 and 34, and measured their level of narcissism using a test commonly used to diagnose Narcissistic Personality Disorder. Participants were monitored over four months for any personality changes, and researchers also tracked their social media usage and assessed the level of disruption social media causes in their daily lives.
“There have been suggestions of links between narcissism and the use of visual postings on social media, such as Facebook, but, until this study, it was not known if narcissists use this form of social media more, or whether using such platforms is associated with the subsequent growth in narcissism,” says study leader Phil Reed, a psychology professor at the university, in a release. “The results of this study suggest that both occur, but show that posting selfies can increase narcissism.”
The authors found that individuals who used social media excessively, particularly to post photos, showed a 25 percent increase in narcissistic traits at the end of the study period. That jump even qualified many participants for a Narcissistic Personality Disorder diagnosis.
“Taking our sample as representative of the population, which there is no reason to doubt, this means that about 20 percent of people may be at risk of developing such narcissistic traits associated with their excessive visual social media use,” says Reed.
Meanwhile, people who spent most of their time on social media posting text, such as tweets, didn’t see the same result. Interestingly, people who had higher levels of narcissism at the start of the study showed an increase in such verbal postings by the end of the study.
The study also showed that participants used social media for about three hours daily for non-work purposes, but that number was as high as eight hours a day for some.
So if you’re ever wondering why some of your friends are filling your feeds with photos of themselves seemingly every day, it may be that they’ve become simply wired to do so.
The full study was published October 18, 2018 in The Open Psychology Journal.