The Dark Side of Facebook: Study finds correlation between social media activities and narcissim

By Mary Diamond

With 845 million monthly users as of December 2011, Facebook is a social media trend that has touched more lives than just about any other website. So many people interacting in one virtual place has researchers looking for correlations between Facebook activity and negative social traits.

In a recent study by former NIU graduate student Chris Carpenter, currently assistant communication professor at Western Illinois University, 292 individuals were given a narcissistic personality inventory (NPI) survey, and the results were compared to the participants’ Facebook activities and habits. The resulting data established correlations between updates that were self-promotional or even anti-social and high NPI scores, indicating narcissistic personalities.

“If someone consistently posts but does not respond to comments, that is a good indication as well as if they consistently draw the conversation back to themselves,” said Holly Nicholson, NIU social media specialist. “Sharing a lot of photos of just themselves could be another indicator.”

Another study, conducted by researchers from the University of Waterloo, found Facebook updates that focus on negativity are unappealing to others and do not improve low self-esteem issues.

NIU Psychology Professor Brad Sagarin said Facebook users should consider what they are posting before they update their social networking sites.

“We are in a sense leaving a permanent record of ourselves out there,” Sagarin said. “Privacy settings don’t prevent a person you’re friends with from copying and posting your updates elsewhere.”

While research from sources shows negative interactions and emotions are best left to IRL (in real life) communication, Nicholson said she does not believe self-promotion is necessarily a bad thing.

“There are plenty of benefits for those who ‘market’ themselves online,” she said. “However, like most things, it should be approached with moderation. I think that with both self-promotion and anti-social behavior there is a spectrum of severity.”