Students who use social networks for self-promotion tend to be more narcissistic, according to a new psychology study. Researchers reached the conclusion after looking at 279 students' use of Electronic Media and Communication Devices (EMCDs) while making posts and uploading content to sites like Facebook.
They then compared this to the students' own perceived usage patterns to gauge moral judgment including their understanding of the societal implications of their behavior. Not only where the researchers' suspicions confirmed (there is a correlation between using social media tools to promote yourself and narcissism), but these students also tended to self-report as narcissistic, showing a link between perception and self-reporting.
The paper was put together by Meghan M. Saculla, a psychology professor at Flagler College, as well as three advisors: Dr. W. Pitt Derryberry (Director), Dr. Aaron Wichman, and Dr. Andy Mienaltowski. The findings will be presented at this year's American Educational Research Association (AERA) conference (April 8, 2011 to April 12, 2011). If you can't wait till then, however, you can download the 91-page paper yourself: Addressing Relationships among Moral Judgment Development, Narcissism, and Electronic Media and Communication Devices (PDF).
The researchers also discovered that male students tend to use social networks less than female students, but that males are more likely to use them for building their popularity and behaving in a narcissistic manner. That being said, female students still ended up having more photos and friends associated with their Facebook accounts than male students.
So does self-promotion on sites like Facebook turn you into a narcissist? Not necessarily. It's very possible that narcissistic people find that EMCDs help amplify their already existing behavior.
How you use technology, rather than just the amount of time spent you use it, is what leads to moral lapses. As long as you are using Facebook and other social networks to accompany your normal social life, instead of replacing it, chances are you don't have much to worry about.