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Instagram users admit they’ve created the most narcissistic social network on the planet
Published: Aug 11, 2017 11:18 a.m. ET
Young Americans have cast aspersions on their own carefully-crafted images
Selfie-hypocrisy or self-deprecation?
A large majority of millennials (64%) rated the photo-filter app Instagram FB, +0.80% the world’s most narcissistic social media platform. Instagram received more votes than Facebook (10%), Snapchat (15%) and Twitter (11%) combined, the survey of 3,700 college students released Wednesday by LendEdu, a consumer finance comparison site, found. “With just a few filters, a little saturation, and a clever caption, social media can make even the most average Joe look like an esteemed socialite,” the researchers noted. “They use these platforms to boast of their daily tidings, carefully craft their public image, and feed their egos in this interconnected digital age.”
A backlash against selfies is afoot, and not just from those who are most likely to take them and post them on social media. Disney DIS, -0.10% is cracking down on selfies. In recent years, Disneyland Paris and Hong Kong Disneyland took the lead from Disney’s U.S.-based theme parks by banning selfie sticks. The Sistine Chapel in Italy and Palace Museum in Beijing have also banned them. The Coachella music festival in California, which takes place next month, and the Lollapalooza festival in Chicago, which takes place in July, have banned them too. In fact, Coachella’s rules echo the results of the latest survey by LendEdu: “No Selfie Sticks/No Narcissists.”
These venues may be doing these selfie-lovers a service. People who post selfies on social networks like Instagram and Facebook are more likely to exhibit what some psychologists call the “dark triad” of personality traits, according to two previous studies of nearly 1,200 men and women who completed personality tests and answered questions on their online habits. This dark triad consists of narcissism (extreme self-centeredness), Machiavellianism (manipulation of others) and psychopathy (acting impulsively with no regard for other people’s feelings), they noted. (Spokespersons for Instagram and Facebook did not respond to request for comment.)
Constantly posting selfies not only intensifies peer pressure, it also provides an unrealistic mirror of our own lives, experts say. “It’s not a wonderful personality constellation,” says Jesse Fox, assistant professor of communications at Ohio State University, and co-author of the aforementioned studies of 800 men — “The Dark Triad” — published in the April 2015 edition of “Personality and Individual Differences,” a peer-reviewed journal, and a similar paper studying 400 women. Narcissism, self-objectification and psychopathy predicted the actual number of selfies posted on sites like Instagram, as did how often people edited photographs to be posted online.
These findings are supported by yet another study published the previous year in “Social Networking,” a peer-reviewed quarterly academic journal that studies social relations. Posting, tagging and commenting on photos on Facebook were associated with respondents’ self-reported narcissism for both men and women, the study — “Is Facebook Linked to Selfishness?” — found. And posting frequent status updates and sharing links with a greater frequency were specifically linked with more narcissistic tendencies in women. The participants answered questions about both their social media habits and the Narcissistic Personality Index, a standard psychological test.
But sharing images on social media can have a positive impact on social networkers, too. It exposes people to the lives of others, their good times and bad times, says Tracy Packiam Alloway, associate professor at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville and co-author of the study on Facebook and selfishness. What’s more, the ability to promote oneself with photos feeds narcissistic tendencies in those that are already very self-involved rather than actually turning selfless people into selfie-obsessed people, she adds. And correlation isn’t causation: These studies may show a connection, but don’t suggest that social networking actually causes people to be more narcissistic.
Others caution against drawing a connection between people’s behavior online and their behavior in real life, and say everyone has a little bit of narcissism. “You can see traits or tendencies to endorse certain things based on questionnaires,” says Julie Barnes, a New York-based clinical psychologist, “but you can’t diagnose anyone through them.” In psychological circles, she says, there is “healthy versus unhealthy” narcissism. The latter could damage relationships, the former might be useful to get ahead in the workplace. In the era of social networking, “everyone — whether consciously or unconsciously — is becoming a brand of themselves,” Barnes says.