The Bonfires Of Facebook And Twitter Vanities
June 17, 2013

The Bonfires Of Facebook And Twitter Vanities

The world is becoming more and more narcissistic. Some people care more about their own images and other’s perceptions of them than they care about the general well being of others. I believe that ‘reality’ tv shows bare part of the blame for this, but perhaps social media does as well. In fact, one University of Michigan study found that Facebook and Twitter both play a role in the vanity that we see in many others (and maybe even ourselves, if we are honest) today.

The study was conducted by Elliot Panek, Yioryos Nardis and Sara Konrath, who were all University of Michigan researchers. Here is a breakdown of what they looked at and how:

“The researchers examined whether narcissism was related to the amount of daily Facebook and Twitter posting and to the amount of time spent on each social media site, including reading the posts and comments of others.

For one part of the study, the researchers recruited 486 college undergraduates. Three-quarters were female and the median age was 19. Participants answered questions about the extent of their social media use, and also took a personality assessment measuring different aspects of narcissism, including exhibitionism, exploitativeness, superiority, authority and self-sufficiency.

For the second part of the study, the researchers asked 93 adults, mostly white females, with an average age of 35, to complete an online survey.

According to Panek, the study shows that narcissistic college students and their adult counterparts use social media in different ways to boost their egos and control others’ perceptions of them.”

In my limited experience with Facebook, both my male and female friends who are the most narcissistic are the ones who post most regularly. As I have written about before, I do have a Facebook account, but I am not very active on it. A couple times a week, I will log in and send messages to friends, check my newsfeed, and like my friends’ posts. In these limited Facebook engagements, I see more from the people in my life that definitely fit the vanity bill, for one reason or another.

I am not judging this behavior. Heck, I often enable it by liking their posts or responding to their comments. Social media sites seem to be a relatively safe place to exhibit such behavior. And perhaps there is a way to use that narcissism for good via Facebook and Twitter. I mean, maybe people can post about important issues to spread the word while also boosting both their egos and how others view them.

What is also important to consider in this research is that the researchers did not “determine whether narcissism leads to increased use of social media, or whether social media use promotes narcissism, or whether some other factors explain the relationship. But the study is among the first to compare the relationship between narcissism and different kinds of social media in different age groups.”

Yes, narcissism can be dangerous, but through understanding social media’s possible roles in that behavior, we can better understand how to navigate it, both as narcissists and non-narcissists. At the very least, this study has made me consider my own actions via social media.

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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