Amsterdam Center for Social Media

This week in social media research: “Vanity, definitely my favorite sin.”* (Narcissism and Facebook status messages)

satiric-illustrations-john-holcroft-1By Chei Billedo

Do you think people who constantly update their status on Facebook are vain?

If you are like most people, then you are more likely to answer “yes” to this question. The popular belief is that frequent posting of status messages on Facebook might be a sign of narcissism. (Try googling Facebook and narcissism, and you’ll see what I mean). But is this really the case?


The recently published study of Deters, Mehl, and Eid (2014) investigated empirically (1) the perceptions of average users of Facebook regarding the association between narcissism and status updating activity; and (2) the actual relationship between narcissism and frequency of status updates.

The authors defined narcissism as a “personality trait… characterized by a grandiose self-view, a pronounced self-focus, strong feelings of entitlement, a need for social admiration but a lack of concern for others and hence is related to many intra- and interpersonal problems.” In their study, they asked their respondents whether they believed that narcissists post fewer, just as much, or more status updates than somebody who is not narcissistic. They found that majority of their respondents perceive that narcissists would display higher status updating activity. Moreover, the respondents believed that they themselves would be perceived by their friends as narcissistic if they posted many status updates.

When they examined the actual link between narcissism (measured via self- and informant reports) and frequency of status updates, they found that narcissism did not significantly predict status updating activity. They concluded that more narcissistic users are not substantially more active posters on Facebook.

I believe that it is still premature to conclusively state that narcissism has no link to one’s frequency of status messages posted on Facebook based on this study alone. However, this study offers a strong counter-argument to the popular belief. And it cautions us from hastily profiling our Facebook friends’ personality based on the frequency of their Facebook activities. The friend who bombards us with status updates on Facebook is, maybe, not necessarily soliciting social admiration. Let’s give this friend the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps, this friend really only wants to connect. But what if this Facebook friend is constantly posting (obviously) self-promoting status messages? It is, indeed, useful for future studies to examine not only the frequency, but also the content of status messages in relation to narcissism.

Deters, F.G., Mehl, M.R., & Eid, M. (2014). Narcissistic power poster? On the relationship between narcissism and status updating activity on Facebook, Journal of Research in Personality, 53, 165-174.

*quote from the movie “The Devil’s Advocate”
** photo credit: illustration by John Holcroft from http://www.boredpanda.com/satiric-illustrations-retro-john-holcroft/


Category: Facebook, Personality, Social media


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