Have lots of Facebook friends? You might be a narcissist – study

22 Mar 2012

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People who have a high number of Facebook friends may be narcissists, a study published in the journal Personality and Individual Differences suggests.

The study, titled ‘Narcissism on Facebook: Self-promotional and anti-social behavior’, aimed to identify ‘socially disruptive’ personality types on the social network.

The Mayo Clinic refers to narcissism as a personality disorder. “A mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance and a deep need for admiration. Those with narcissistic personality disorder believe that they’re superior to others and have little regard for other people’s feelings. But behind this mask of ultra-confidence lies a fragile self-esteem, vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”

Assistant professor of communication at the Western Illinois University, Christopher J Carpenter, surveyed 294 people – most of whom are college students – ages 18-65, for the study.

The study participants answered questions to gauge two subsets of the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI): Grandiose Exhibitionism (GE) (which refers to people who love to be the centre of attention) and Entitlement/Exploitativeness (EE) (the extent to which people will go to get the respect and attention they think they deserve), Carpenter said.

The study participants also answered questions such as, “How often do you update your profile information on Facebook?” “How often do you post status updates to Facebook?” and “How often do you accept a friend request from a total stranger on Facebook (assuming they do not appear to be a fake profile)?”

The theory behind the study is that Facebook users with a high friend count score highly on GE, because their desire for attention drive them to seek a wider audience. This same group is also likelier to post frequent status updates, upload photos, change their profile picture and accept friend requests from strangers as a means to gain attention.

The study also theorised that study participants with high EE scores felt entitled to attention without effort or reciprocity.

The March 2012 issue of Personality and Individual Differences is available to order online.