Do you know how many Facebook friends’ your teenager has? 200, 500, 1,000? Researchers have linked high Facebook activity, including a large number of ‘friends’, with narcissistic personalities.
The researchers define narcissism as “a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration and an exaggerated sense of self-importance”.
Creating a narcissistic personality inventory, the team from Western Illinois University measured self-promoting Facebook behaviors such as:
- posting status updates
- posting photos of oneself
- updating profile information;
and several anti-social behaviors, including:
- seeking social support more than providing it
- getting angry when others do not comment on status updates
- retaliating against negative comments.
According to a report in The Guardian, people who scored highly on the narcissistic personality inventory questionnaire had more friends on Facebook, tagged themselves more often and updated their news feeds more regularly.
“People who scored highly had more friends on Facebook, tagged themselves more often and updated their news feeds more regularly”
But don’t all teenagers have an exaggerated sense of self-importance, to some degree? Aren’t they all a little in need of admiration? Aren’t they all just a little … narcissistic?
Sydney-based clinical psychologist Dr Michelle Pritchard says while it is reasonable for parents to be concerned about their child’s behaviour on social networking sites, it is unlikely that their teenager has a narcissistic personality.
“Adolescence is a time of self-exploration and egocentrism,” says Michelle. “This means that most adolescents are self-focused and have greater perceptions of increased grandiosity than other age groups.”
“Unfortunately teenagers’ social status in their friendship circles can be affected if they are not engaging in social networking sites”
Michelle says that although a teenager having 500+ friends on Facebook is concerning, “unfortunately this is something quite typical for their age group and their social status in their friendship circles can be affected if they are not engaging in social networking sites”.
Michelle recommends parents monitor their child’s behaviour on Facebook to screen for inappropriate messaging or relationships – especially with people their teen has not met. “But I would be inclined to suggest that posting information and photos on Facebook is mostly adolescent-related in a developmental sense than a sign of clinical narcissism,” she says.