By Jenniffer Weigel
5:38 PM EDT, June 11, 2013
For those Americans unnerved by the popularity of social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, a new study from the University of Michigan will come as little surprise. And it might even add some smugness.
The gist of the study: Narcissists “like” Facebook and Twitter. A lot. And social media in general “reflect and amplify” our culture’s deepening narcissism.
The study, by University of Michigan researchers, Elliot Panek, Yioryos Nardis and Sara Konrath, was published online in the journal Computers in Human Behavior.
The study found that narcissistic college students prefer Twitter, using it as “a megaphone” for their lives. Older adults, meanwhile, use Facebook more as a mirror, the researchers said. They curate their image, using frequent status updates and then gauging how people react to their updates, photos, etc.
"Twitter is simple and pared down and it’s about getting the message out to the world at large, so college students used this more,” Panek said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “Adults who have an established social circle use Facebook as a way of gaining the approval of others. They can also create their image and check how others respond to that image.”
"I was surprised that there was a difference between adults and college students in terms of the way they used Facebook and Twitter,” he said. “I thought they would relate the same way, but there was a very clear difference.”
According to the a University of Michigan, researchers recruited 486 college undergraduates. About 75 percent of them were young women, with 19 as the median age. White females made up most of the adults surveyed, meanwhile, with an average age of 35. The survey was done online.
“I think the next step would be to follow some people for a period of time to be able to look at the content of status updates and tweets, and see how they could be related to social issues or what you ate for dinner the night before,” Panek said. “This is definitely a burgeoning line of research.”
The researchers were unable to 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, according to a news release from the university.
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