21 May 2011

Narcissism and Facebook

In Self-presentation 2.0: Narcissism and self-esteem on Facebook, Mehdizadeh (2010) looks at the social problem of narcissism and how offline narcissism correlates to Facebook activity in the online world. Narcissism includes ‘grandiosity, need for admiration … an exaggerated sense of self-importance … and positive self-views of agentic traits, including intelligence, physical attractiveness, and power’ (Mehdizah 2010, p.358). Narcissists don’t look for warmth or personal intimacy but seek relationships to appear popular and successful, they also seek attractive, high status individuals as romantic partners. They pursue relationships solely for the opportunity of public glory. (Campbell 1999 in Mehdizadeh 2010, p. 358).

Mehdizadeh (2010) was interested in completing the study between Facebook and narcissism firstly because the site is a haven for emotionally disconnected communication and superficial relationships, which is a common trait to narcissists.
Secondly, real life identity has a number of constraints which makes it difficult for people to hide who they really are, such as physical attributes (attractiveness, gender), social status and backgrounds, in contrast, highly controlled environments like Facebook allow users to display their ideal identities, as they have complete power of self presentation.
Lastly, published peer reviewed research on the affect of social networking sites and identity and behaviour is very scarce.

To explore this social problem Mehdizadeh (2010) recruited 100 Facebook users (50 male, 50 female) and coded their Facebook pages for activity. The participants also filled out a questionnaire with the following sections: demographic information, Facebook activity, self-esteem and narcissism. (Mehdizadeh 2010).

Mehdizadeh (2010) found that students who rated high in narcissism were more inclined to present themselves in a self-enhancing manner on Facebook. The narcissists had a higher level of activity on the site and did more self-promoting in several areas. Additional tests were also conducted to see if there were differences between gender of narcissists and the types of self-promotional each gender favoured. Male narcissists were found to use more descriptive self-promotion to highlight their wit or intelligence in the ‘about me’ section. Where as female narcissists indulged in more superficial self-promotion such as sharing revealing photos of themselves. This shows that gender roles have influenced narcissists and their behaviour on Facebook. (Mehdizadeh 2010).