Narcissism In Social Network Sites Psychology Essay

23 Mar 2015

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To look for any display of narcissism in social networking sites, we would need deeper insights into narcissism and social networking sites.

Narcissism has been one of the more studied human behaviours. Narcissism is basically an overly-inflated view of self. It can lead to social interaction abnormality when serious. Many methods on the measurement of narcissism level had been developed. Most of these measurements centered around the Narcissistic Personality inventory (NPI) developed by Raskin & Terry, 1988. The inventory is a 40-questioned survey which aims to determine the narcissistic level of an individual. Twenge (2006) found that narcissism has been increasing over the years and it suggested that the use of social networking sites to be the attributing factor.

Social networking sites have been expanding exponentially. A report by Robert R. (2009) shows that there are over 4.1 billions of communication messages passing though such online sites in American alone, every day. Though more and more psychological researches are looking into this pool of human interaction and behaviour database, this is just the beginning. Never before has so much detailed data on human communication been documented and readily available. Researches on social networking sites are just touching the tip of icebergs.

Recently, even in the local context, we found several extreme display of narcissism on such social sites. Since social networking sites are designed to allow easy promotion of one-self, has it indirectly promoted narcissism?

In this research, we hope that we aim to identify which areas does narcissistic behaviour manifest in social networking sites if it does. We shall investigate into popular networking sites like Face-Book and Blogspot. We will also be trying several methods to quantify Narcissism in individuals and elements in SNS that would show any telltale signs of narcissism.

Literature review


Narcissism is often associated with inflated self-views of traits such as intelligence and physical attractiveness and a sense that one is unique (Buffardi & Campbell, 2008). It a sense of superiority of self over everyone else. It is often linked to the negative behaviours such as belittling others in order to up sell one-self.

On the other hand, Freud S. (1915), an Austrian neurologist, believed that basic narcissism is necessary part of normal human development. A reasonable amount of healthy narcissism allows the individual's perception of his needs to be balanced in relation to others.

One of the most widely used way to measure narcissistic levels are the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) consisting of forty-item force-choice version (Raskin & Terry, 1988). NPI is based on DSM criteria, thus it is often used to measure normal and sub clinical narcissism. Thus high value of NPI does not mean that the person is suffering from Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). The research identified 7 factors of NPI namely exploitation of others, entitlement, superiority, vanity, authority, exhibitionism and self-sufficiency

The 1st measurement metric for narcissism use in this research is the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) in Emmons' study (1984) which emphasis on 4 important factors in narcissism.

They are;

  1. Arrogance / Superiority (arrogant behavior)
  2. Self-admiration and Self-absorption (admire one-self)
  3. Authority / Leadership (enjoy being seen as an authority)
  4. Entitlement/Exploitativeness (exploitation of others)

The 2nd measurement metric used in this research is the NEO FFI- Narcissistic Personality Inventory (Five-Factor) is developed by Raskin and Hall. It is used to measure Narcissistic Traits in Social Psychological research. It can help to understand emotional, interpersonal experimental, attitudinal and motivational styles of the survey subjects. Narcissism is said to be on the rise especially in the new generation. We shall examine further into this, in chapters that follow.


A Social Network Site is where people connect online to engage in virtual social activities based on shared interest features like personal or political views, common language etc. These communications are possible due to the advanced technology of Web Applications, which help user to participate and interact with each other more effectively, than in real life.

The key to the success of a popular social network site is the user-friendly applications they provide to the users to express their wide range of interest and practice and to make them connected on the move with help of mobile connectivity, making it easier for sharing of pictures, videos and blogging (Boyd & Ellison, 2007)

Social Networking Sites provide services such as place for; 1) users to communicate with friends based on mutual interest and personalities. 2) Forming groups and communities online. 3) Uploading and sharing photos and videos. 4) Reminding updates of post and comments made by friends. 5) Game where group of friends play together. 6) Chatting and sending mails. (Haythornthwaite, 2005)

A formal definition of a Social Network Site (SNS) by Boyd, D.M & Ellison, N.B. (2007); a SNS is a web-based services which allow users to: Construct a public or semi- public profile within a controlled system; Listing the users with whom they share a connection and; Traverse the list of connection to others who connect within the system example ‘Face Book' notifies a user about his friends getting connected to other users who are not in the list of the current user.

From the above points we can differentiate terms between Social Networking Sites and Social Network site. If we closely differentiate the term Network and Networking where, networking term emphasizes relation initiation, often between strangers (Boyd & Ellison, 2007). This means that in a SNS people connect with others with known users to extend their communication online due to limited meeting in reality and they only start to networking with strangers when they have be introduced or share same opinion and like to know more.

In a SNS, a new user sets up a profile page and introduce about himself to others online. He could update anyone reading his profile on his daily thoughts like a diary. Any SNS member can tag or invite non-facebook user to look browse their profile. The purpose of this invitation is to make a non-facebook user aware of such a site where he has freedom to explore more about his friends and to view new people on the web. The key techniques used to match users is by kinds of choices they selected while signing up form during the subscription, this feature helps a new user to get in touch with people with same feeling in other terms as “latent ties” (Haythornthwaite, 2005) most commonly defined as one gets know other who is close but far due to geographic boundaries.

The SNS features on application to create profile by user which is subdivide in two categories like, Internal Social Network (ISN) and External Social Network (ESN). ISN is a closed group network with limited access only by the members, where as ESN is open group, where users can access to content openly. The ESN is most commonly used for public opinion in various sectors like government, Industries and education purposes. While ISN is for internal communication, such as an internal face-book for IBM employees, which it is only access via intranet.


Facebook is a social networking website where users can communicate with their friends with mutual interests and personalities. They can share any information related to employment, studies, and other interesting things. They can upload and share their photos, write comments to their friends. Forwarding useful information, updating technologies can also be done through this SNS.

Facebook helps in creating a fashionable, glamorous, cool profile that shows once personality and character. This also shows the number of friends each user have and notifies a user about their friends getting connected to other users who are not in his list by sending request. Facebook also used to organize groups and ties with friends and neighbors, who are related to indices of psychological well being like self satisfaction, esteem with life.

Facebook is used to search old friends, classmates based on location, year of graduation, etc. It is a free service. The overall rating of Facebook among all SNS's links is rated the best. Through security wise, help/support wise, legitimate friend focus wise the best SNS is “FACEBOOK”, Cassidy, J. (2006).

Facebook can be seen as a platform where user created content and applications strives on. This nature where its contents are constantly created by its users helped to main a strong customization for its users.


A Blog is a personal online journal that is frequently updated and intended for general public consumption. Blogs are defined by their format: a series of entries posted to a single page in reverse-chronological order. Blogs generally represent the personality of the user or reflect the purpose of the web site that hosts the blog.

According to a study by Boase, J., Horrigan, J. B., Wellman, B., & Rainie, L. (2006), nearly 12 million people use SNS like blogs. Almost 54% of the population is under 30 years. And a similar study states, teen use of blogging found that 19% of internet users between 12 to 17 years old who operates personnel blog. It also describes that the use of the blog for latest news on products, information and interest, also for documentation of sharing of experiences and sharing knowledge and skills.

Blogging is not limited to the isolated posts of personnel information but also users like to post comments on their friends profile, on new topics, information, discussions, etc,. They also like to make new friends through these comments and sharing.

Blogging can be named as a “Knowledge Management Tool”, which has an ability to share chronologically order materials for simple retrieval. Example one of the classmates can post the class material which is passed by the teacher. And can receive feedback on the coursework. Student's discussions are prominent example of these blogs. Through these blogs, student can learn more subjects excluding their standard subjects. They can explore their knowledge in all fields by sharing information in the blogs.

In Corporate Blogging, one can discuss on a project or an application they developed in their organization. They can make their business run towards success by getting the new upgrading methodologies and implementing them in their business. They can share all product information which may be used to improve their effort.

In general, Blogs convey the user's perspective of topics, events, issues and situations making them an ideal conveyance for information that educated or informs the reading the users who can comment and interact with the user who posted the topic. This way one can get to know the subject of the topic. We can name the blog as “Collaborate learning technology” (PaulR. and ThereseL, 2007).


Study by Twenge (2009) has shown that narcissism levels have raised over generations, and social networking sites that allow self-promotion have been suggested to have contributed to this rise. In his book ‘The Narcissism Epidemic', he mentioned that “narcissism is the reason why high school students physically beat classmates and then broadcast their violence on YouTube for all to see.” In his book, he was trying to say that this new generation of teenagers had much higher narcissistic levels. The children are trying to say ‘I am special, so look at me'. Such behaviours are almost unheard of in the past. These incidents are not isolated in the States but also in Asian countries like Singapore. Coincidently, these countries are also the ones with popularity with social networking sites. So, is there really a relation between narcissistic behaviours and usage of online social networks? Does such networks exhibits or even promotes narcissistic behaviours?

According to the research done by renowned Psychologists Luara Buffardi (2008), people who are narcissistic, use facebook in a self promoting way that can be identified by others. Untrained observers were tasked to determine a test group's narcissistic level based on (1) Quantity of social interaction, (2) attractiveness of the individual and (3) the degree of self promotion in the main photo.

The research found out that the untrained observers were able to correctly identify most of the narcissistic test subjects. The results also implied that not everyone that use face-book is a narcissist. Users who actively participate in suggestions and photo comments are not necessary narcissist. However more narcissistic individuals usually have profiles filled with negative comments on others and a more close up and good self portrait.

There are few of such researches in Asia and Singapore. We hope to do a contrast study on results to see if there is any difference of narcissism being displayed different aboard and locally in Singapore.



The research aims to identify elements in online social networking sites that exhibit narcissistic behaviors.

To determine the extent of Narcissism in online Social Networks we first need to quantify the Narcissism level of the research subjects. Second, we collect a range of narcissistic related-data from the students on online social networks. Third, we run regression analysis between the quantified Narcissistic subject data and their respective face-book narcissistic indexes.

A separate study of the narcissism-related elements in face-book was also done by using a reverse-comparative method to study a known narcissist group.


Demographical variables of concern: age, school grade, gender and ethnicity.

There are a total of 206 research subjects. The subjects are secondary school students aged between 13 years to 15 years old. About 63% of the subjects have access to internet at home. 93% of the subjects are local students, the remaining 7% international students. 42% of the students are male, 58% females. The ethnicity ratio is Chinese 8.4: Indian 1.2: Malay 3: Others 1

Scope of Study - Objective

In this study, we aim to identify elements of face-book which exhibits narcissism. We will be using 2 approaches.

In the first approach, we will gather NPI data of test subjects by using NEO-FFI and NPQC questionnaires. Then we will conduct a survey on usage data of face-book. Next we will do a regression testing of the NPI data and the face-book elements to find if there is significance.

In the second approach, we will attempt to find a group of highly narcissistic test subjects. This will be done by psychological experts. Next a comparative study of the group's face-book profiles verse random normal profiles will be done. The results of the study will ran though a simple Mean-testing and the key differences will be highlighted.

First Approach - Regression testing

Face book survey and blog survey comprises of 3 sections

  1. Section A - Consists of 18 questions which are derived using NPQC tool
  2. Section B - Consists of 12 questions which are derived using EXTRA (FFI)
  3. Section C - Consists of 13 questions related to face book / blog account

(Details of the questions for Sections A, B and C are attached in Annex A.)

We will calculate 4 indicators using the data collected from the 13 questions on Face-book. They labeled as (a) FB_P4 - ratio of self photos over total photos; (b) FB_A1 - number of friends and wall post; (c) FB_A2 - writing on friends' wall/post/comment; (d) FB_P1 - total number of photos

Our hypothesis for the regression test are (a) There is a relationship between the narcissistic personality questionnaire for children (NPQC) index and the face-book narcissistic indicators.(b) There is a relationship between the extraversion (EXTRA) index and the face-book narcissistic indicators.

We will be using linear regression to test the relation. This method allows us to model the relationship between the indexes and the indicators by means of a linear equation. We will feed the data into SPSS Statistical Software for testing.


This section will describe the information obtained from the resultant of the surveys conducted and the analysis arises based on the data represents.


Run #1 - NPQC with Elements from Facebook.

Our independent variable for this run will be the Narcissistic Personality index for children, while the dependent variables are face-book indicators FB_P4, FB_A1, FB_A2 and FB_P1.

The SPSS returned the following regression data.








FB_P4 - photo ratio



FB_A1 - posts



FB_A2 - others



FB_P1 - photos



Table 1. SPSS Results: Multi-Linear Regression on Face-book using NPQC

Key to SPSS Significance:

Sig > 0.05 - Statistically insignificant

0.01 < Sig < 0.05 - Statistically Significant 95% Confidence Interval.

Sig < 0.01 - Statistically Significant 99% Confidence Interval.

Referring to the significance key, we can see from the table that only “FB_A2 - others” has a statistically significant relation with NPQC with Sig < 0.05. However, for the rest of the elements, namely “FB_P4”, “FB_A1” and “FB_P1”, there is no statistically significant relation with NPQC.

We will accept the Hypothesis that NPQC has a relation with FB_A2 with a Beta of -0.231 Sig of 0.044.

A Beta of negative -0.231 strikes a contradiction. Because it would mean that the higher the Narcissistic level is the test subject, the less probable that he or she is going to post on someone else face-book or blog.

A Possible Explanation for this is that narcissistic behavior tends to point to a person more concerned with self-image and being conceit. The more posts and comments on other's SN may mean the person does not have such characteristics.

We will reject the Hypothesis that NPQC has a relation with FB_P4, FB_A1 and FB_P1. However, this would mean that there is no relation between NPQC between FB_P4, FB_A1 and FB_P1. We will look into this in the next section

Run #2 data - Extraversion with Elements from Facebook.

Our independent variable for this run will be Extraversion of the NPI, while the dependent variables are face-book indicators FB_P4, FB_A1, FB_A2 and FB_P1.

The SPSS returned the following regression data.

Facebook Extraversion






FB_P4 - photo ratio



FB_A1 - posts



FB_A2 - others



FB_P1 - photos



Table 2. SPSS Results: Multi-Linear Regression on Face-book using Extraversion

Looking at the extraversion table, we reject the hypothesis for that extraversion has a correlation with Face-book elements FB_P4, FB_A1, FB_A2, FB_P1. However, this would mean that there is no relation between NPQC between FB_P4, FB_A1, FB_A2 and FB_P1. We will look into the reason null hypothesis in the next section.

Run #3 data - NPQC with Elements from Blog. The SPSS returned the following regression data.

Our independent variable for this run will be the Narcissistic Personality index for children, while the dependent variables are blog indicators B_P4, B_A1, B_A2 and B_P1.







B_P4 - photo ratio



B_A1 - posts



B_A2 - others



Table 3. SPSS Results: Multi-Linear Regression on Blog using NPQC

Looking at the NPQC table, we reject the hypothesis for that extraversion has a correlation with Blog elements B_P4, B_A1, B_A2. However, this would mean that there is no relation between NPQC between B_P4, B_A1 and B_A2. We will look into the null hypothesis in the next section.

Run #4 data - Extraversion with Elements from Blog.

Our independent variable for this run will be Extraversion of the NPI, while the dependent variables are blog indicators B_P4, B_A1, B_A2 and B_P1.

The SPSS returned the following regression data.








FB_P4 - photo ratio



FB_A1 - posts



FB_A2 - others



Table 4. SPSS Results: Multi-Linear Regression on Blog using Extraversion

Looking at the extraversion table, we reject the hypothesis for that extraversion has a correlation with Blog elements B_P4, B_A1, B_A2. However, this would mean that there is no relation between NPQC between B_P4, B_A1 and B_A2. We will look into the entire null hypothesis in the next section.


In this study, we will attempt to find a group of highly narcissistic test subjects. This will be done with help of psychological experts. We were able to find a school to help us. 2 School Counselors trained in educational psychology were asked to identify students with higher narcissistic levels from a test group size of 54 who agreed to participate in the test. 4 individuals of higher narcissistic levels were identified. We then did a preliminary comparison study to find out what are the key differences between the normal profiles and the 4 profiles. This study is done by researcher viewing their face-book profile individually and looking for any elements in face-book which exhibits narcissistic behaviour. A total of 9 elements were identified in the process.

We found that these results are in tandem with the study done by Buffardi and Campbell (2008). They found that quantity of social interaction, attractiveness of the individual account and the degree of self promotion in the main photo are strong indicators of narcissisms. The degree of self-promotion is much affected by the effort to pose in the main photo. The research also suggests that narcissistic behaviours are exhibited in forms of narcissistic comments in individuals with higher narcissistic levels.

Below is a chart relating the 9 elements to that discovered by Buffardi and Campbell (2008).


9 Elements identified in this study

Indicators of Narcissism from Buffardi and Campbell (2008)


number of close up self-portrait

High degree of self promotion found in the Main photo


Main Photo - choice of close portrait shots


Main Photo - Effort to Pose with confidence, elegance (smile with no teeth)


Number of ShoutOuts / week

Quantity of social interaction


Friends Count


Commenting on Self-ShoutOut


narcissistic comments

Display of narcissistic behaviours, activates and comments


Number of Social Interviews (2 weeks)


narcissistic Applications (your top 5 fans)

Table 5: Key Indicators found in the comparison study.

Next a comparative study of the group's face-book profiles verse random normal profiles will be done. The identified key elements are collected from all 54 profiles, by means of researcher logging in to each of the 54 profiles and capturing each of the indicators. The results of the study will ran though a simple Mean-testing and the key differences will be highlighted.


Non Narcissistic

Number of close up self-portraits



Main Photo

choice of close portrait shots



Main Photo

Effort to Pose with confidence, elegance



Number of ShoutOuts / week



Commenting on Self-ShoutOut



Narcissistic comments



Number of Social Interviews (2 weeks)



Narcissistic Applications (your top 5 fans)



Friends Count



Table 6: Results of Key Indicators found in the comparison study.

From the assessment of this study, we found that narcissistic behaviours are exhibited through the use of a close up portrait photo with effort to pose as a main photo. In this small population testing, the exhibition rate is almost 100% as none of the less narcissistic individuals had this category of photos as its' main photo while all of the narcissistic individuals had it.

Another strong exhibition of narcissistic behaviour is through posting of narcissistic comments and usage of narcissistic applications. 75% of the narcissistic individuals posted narcissistic comments while none of the non-narcissistic group posted any of such comments. Also, 100% of the narcissistic individuals had narcissistic applications compared to the 6% of the non-narcissistic group.

The study shows that the number of friend counts and the number of post did not necessary exhibits narcissistism. This is because some of the friend counts and post counts of the non-narcissistic group are larger than that of the narcissistic individuals. This is true though, on the table, the mean of number of friend counts and mean number of post of narcissistic individuals is still significantly higher than the non-narcissistic group.

Discussion and CONCLUSION

In approach 1, we found that the number of post exhibits narcissism attributes in an inverse relationship. The more posts put forward by an individual, the less likely he or she is narcissistic.

We realized that the null hypothesizes in the several runs of Approach 1 did not conform to the other narcissism studies like the recent one by Kathryn W, Stephanie F, Katherine M. White. (2009).

One possible explanation to our results could be due to the limitation of this research. Given the demographics, we realize the students in this school might have too little exposure to face-book and especially blogs accounts. Close to 63% of the students can access internet at home. This is compared to a National internet accessibility average of about 90%. (Tim J., 2009)

Also, the majority of the students taking the test are secondary 1 student who has a relatively short amount of time and experience with SNS. We look into the usage time of the research subjects and found that the average usage hours per week is 1.8hrs. This works out to be about 7.2 hours a month. The latest global average shows that the average time spent in face-book is about 12.6 hours a month (Caroline, M., 2009). This work out so that this group of research subjects has only half the average spent of time spent in face-book as compared to the world. This would mean that this group may be a low-usage population of face-book. Coupled with the fact that Singapore has one of the higher usage face-book usage group and usage pattern as compared to other countries, we need to understand that the results would not be a good representation of the face-book population in Asia, Singapore.

These factors may have resulted in a skew in the data set, attributing to its inconclusive state.

In approach 2, we are able to find 9 indicators which agree with research done by Buffardi and Campbell (2008). However, we need to note that this is only a simple study to identify possible elements. A more comprehensive study is required to determine if there is a relation between the 9 key elements, possibly one which involves regression testing. Due to the scope of this research, we hope that future research can develop into this area.

Limitation of approach 2 is that the cases are based contrasting students displaying high narcissistic behaviors and normal students. There may be a number of false negatives in this research. Further analysis is required to test if the 9 elements are able to identify individuals displaying high narcissistic levels. Also, the population of the test only has a count of 54. This small group may not represent the overall population well, thus the results may not be accurate.

There are minimum research studies done on Narcissism in Asia, especially Singapore. We hope that this research will contribute to the body of knowledge in this area. Aggression is associated with extreme narcissism and known for its role in majority of the emotional and domestic abuse. We help to contribute to the identifying cases of mild narcissism can introduce interventions and help at early stages. In future work, we hope that more research will be able to investigate into the 9 potential elements identified. Thanks for your time.


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