Your Instagram selfies may say more about you than you think — at least that's what University of Georgia graduate student Jessica McCain found in her study on the correlation between narcissism and social media use.
“[We took] all the research on narcissism and social media that we could find and tried to see overall what story it's telling,” said Keith Campbell, professor and head of the Psychology Department, who co-authored the study with McCain.
McCain, the lead author, and her team conducted four mini studies testing four measures of social media use — number of friends, frequency of posts or updates, time spent on social media and number of selfies posted.
“All four of these were associated positively with grandiose narcissism,” McCain said.
The study measured narcissism through a scale called the NPI, or Narcissistic Personality Inventory, in which participants ranked statements such as “I like to be the center of attention” or “modesty doesn’t become me."
“The sum or average of their ratings is their score,” McCain said.
McCain said the team found positive correlations for all four measure of social media use, meaning there is a high chance narcissism and social media use are linked.
McCain and Campbell said correlation, however, does not necessarily equal causation.
“This doesn't mean social media use causes narcissism, but the two are definitely related,” McCain said.
While social media usage and narcissism are linked, not every user who posts a photo is a narcissist.
“We don't know which comes first,” Campbell said. “Narcissistic people use social media to promote, but there’s also an argument that social media makes people narcissistic.”
Campbell said their research began about 10 years ago and focused on Facebook usage, but "the field has grown tremendously,” he said.
“Researchers still have a long way to go. For example, the majority of the research we found used Facebook and Twitter, but other platforms such as Reddit or Tumblr have not been studied extensively,” McCain said.
In the future, the team hopes to perform more meta studies on the topic.