How to Spot a Narcissist Online

It’s a truism that the internet will make narcissists of its users, but now that everyone is online, and it’s unrealistic that every internet user is a budding narcissist, how do you spot actual narcissists online? We’re all noodling around on social media incessantly, but researchers believe that the difference is in our motives. And they believe that real narcissists are more likely to be active on Twitter (gulp!) than on Facebook. Why?

One recent study published in Computers in Human Behavior dug into the how and why of narcissists’ social media use, looking at both college students and an older adult population. The researchers measured how often people tweeted or updated their Facebook status, but also why, asking them how much they agreed with statements like “It is important that my followers admire me,” and “It is important that my profile makes others want to be my friend.”

Overall, Twitter use was more correlated with narcissism, but lead researcher Shaun W. Davenport, chair of management and entrepreneurship at High Point University, points out that there was a key difference between generations. Older narcissists were more likely to take to Facebook, whereas younger narcissists were more active on Twitter. “For older adults who didn’t grow up using Facebook, it takes more intentional motives to use it, like narcissism.”

Additionally, narcissists who would normally gain a lot of friends but lose them through their callousness benefit by the non-narcissistic population’s laziness around unfriending annoying social media contacts — as well as the high entertainment value non-narcissistic folks experienced when witnessing a narcissist bloviate in public. Call it the reality TV effect.

Unsurprisingly, narcissists also respond very strongly to gaming and the status felt with a constant positive feedback stream:

Though social media is an obvious and much-discussed bastion of narcissism, online role-playing games, the most famous being World of Warcraft, have been shown to hold some attraction as well. A study of 1,471 Korean online gamers showed narcissists to be more likely to be addicted to the games than non-narcissists. The concrete goals and rewards the games offer allow the players to gather prestige: “As you play, your character advances by gaining experience points, ‘leveling-up’ from one level to the next while collecting valuables and weapons and becoming wealthier and stronger,” the study reads. “In this social setting, excellent players receive the recognition and attention of others, and gain power and status.”

So the internet and everything on it is a massive narcissistic supply. Weird! For folks who want to understand how the internet affects this personality disorder and  its attendant maladaptive social behavior, read the rest here.


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