Social networking sites, such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram provide a platform to create and maintain social relationships online. Instagram, the rising photo-sharing social networking site enables its users to take pictures and videos, and share them publicly on the app. The application has gained an enormous amount of global popularity over the years.
It has become routine for celebrities to share vapid information and fill Instagram with the "moments" that constitute their day. The unspoken rule of Instagram: nothing is mundane once you reach the threshold of a few thousand followers.
Moon, Lee, Lee, Choi & Sung (2016) examined the relationship between narcissism and Instagram users' self-promoting behaviour through an online survey.
Narcissism referring to “a personality trait reflecting a grandiose and inflated self-concept”, characterised by an unrealistic positive self-view (Buffardi & Campbell, 2008), especially of traits, such as status, physical appearance, social popularity, and intelligence (Campbell, Rudich, & Sedikides, 2002).
The results showed that individuals higher in narcissism tended to post selfies and self-presented photos, update their profile picture more often, and spend more time on Instagram, as compared to their counterparts. They also rated their Instagram profile pictures as more physically attractive.
Narcissism was assessed using a translated version of the 13-item Narcissism Personality Inventory (NPI-13) (Gentile et al., 2013). The NPI-13 yields a total score and three subscale scores: GE, LA and EE. A series of regression analyses were performed to examine the relative effects of the three factors of narcissism on self-promoting behaviours on Instagram. The regression analyses showed that regardless of the dependent variables, the results were consistent.
Young people aged 17-21 are particularly vulnerable to the potentially negative effects of social media. Adolescents go through a necessary narcissistic stage as they move away from their caregivers, trying to find their place in society. Their experiences of this developmental chapter can be detrimentally magnified by social media.
“I sometimes spend hours thinking about what to post, thinking about what my followers want, but also what I want them to think about me. But I see it as time well invested: it’s made me successful, well-known, and it’s made me money,” says one Instagram user.
Numerous studies claim to have made direct links between the increase in narcissistic personality disorder and the omnipresence of social media. With more than 80 million photographs uploaded to Instagram every day, will social media really turn us into a pack of self-absorbed narcissists?
(1) Moon, J. H., Lee, E., Lee, J. A., Choi, T. R., & Sung, Y. (2016). The role of narcissism in self-promotion on Instagram. Personality and Individual Differences, 101, 22-25.
(2) The Guardian - Me! Me! Me! Are we living through a narcissism epidemic? https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/mar/02/narcissism-epidemic-self-obsession-attention-seeking-oversharing
(3) The Guardian - I, narcissist - vanity, social media and the human condition https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/17/i-narcissist-vanity-social-media-and-the-human-condition