Narcissists on Facebook: We're On to You
We all should know by now not to put stuff on our Facebook profiles that might someday come back to bite us on the behind: no pictures of ourselves doing drugs, skipping work, or dancing naked on the table. (For more examples of what not to post on line, see this story that circulated earlier this week.)
Researchers at the University of Georgia set out to discover whether people who were narcissists in real life could be identified as such simply by the way they crafted their Facebook profiles. Lead author Laura Buffardi, a doctoral student in psychology who co-wrote the study with associate professor W. Keith Campbell, did personality assessments of 129 Facebook users (all students at the university) to determine whether they qualified as narcissists -- self-promoting, self-aggrandizing people who often seem charming and easily attract other people but don't typically form warm or lasting relationships. (One could argue that the very act of establishing a presence on Facebook, as I have done, is an act of narcissism, but that's a topic for another study.)
The researchers, whose work appears in the October issue of the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, then analyzed the participants' Facebook profiles and had untrained strangers do the same. They found that the number of "Friends" on a person's Facebook and the number of "wallposts" they have there correlated with their narcissism. That figures, Buffardi suggests, as narcissists tend to have lots of shallow relationships rather than a few solid ones. Narcissists on Facebook also tended to post more glamorous photos of themselves in their profiles. (Thank goodness my photo's so frumpy!)
It's interesting to see how narcissism plays out on the on-line social networking scene, in which millions of teens, young adults, and even full-grown folks like me take part. But the really fascinating, and perhaps scary, thing is to think about the implications beyond this study. If researchers can look at my Facebook page and make an educated guess that I'm a narcissist, what else might they be able to discern? That I prefer dogs to cats? That I'm a closet Libertarian?
What do you make of this Facebook/personality trait connection? Interesting party game? Mountain out of a molehill? Or is it a serious concern?
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