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Sunday, July 6, 2014

Facebook and narcissism

A commenter ("Gethin") pointed out after a recent post that research had found a strong correlation between high friend counts on Facebook and frequently changing profile pictures and narcissism.

If you Google the topic, you'll find a number of such studies, including this one cited in The Guardian. It all makes sense. Having a high number of "friends" indicates a certain superficiality and a desire for more of an audience. And changing one's picture frequently betrays a certain vanity.

Something to keep in mind as you appraise your Facebook friends.

I have something like 30 friends on Facebook, many of whom I barely know, I've used only one profile picture (the same one I've used on this blog), and I've never put up a single status update. On the other hand, this blog is basically my Facebook-substitute, and I put far more effort into it than most people put into their Facebook pages. Not sure where that leaves me.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Running a blog is different. You're expressing ideas and thoughts you've had about a variety of subjects. Narcissists just want an audience at any cost. IME, hardly any of their statuses contain anything substantial - it's all about what they've done that weekend, what music they like, links to some videos they've watched, complaining about how bored they are, etc. It's never about anything political or about any books they've read. In other words, their statuses are mainly all about themselves.

- Gethin

John Craig said...

Gethin --
Thank you. Couldn't agree more.

Although, I have to admit, I sometimes write about myself (as in "My calling card,' in June). And I'd be dishonest if I didn't confess to a certain amount of intellectual vanity.

Anonymous said...

Writing about yourself sometimes is perfectly fine. It's just that narcissists tend to write about themselves all the time. I re-read that Guardian article and agree with what they said about aggressive comments. A narcissist I knew would leave many obnoxious comments in response to things that weren't in any way derogatory. It's as if he just relished being mean, posting things that were completely uncalled for. I came to the conclusion that online trolls in general must be narcissistic like him, because who else would enjoy that sort of behaviour? Then I met a sociopath who would troll as a hobby, sitting at his desk for hours posting endless nasty comments. He was banned from many fora for doing that, but never learnt his lesson (I've been banned from a forum once, but only for strongly expressing a contrary opinion to all the liberals. Apparently, the moderators deemed debate unacceptable). Far from feeling annoyed at being banned like I was, this guy would laugh, as though it were a badge of honour. Turns out there's another study linking narcissism and sociopathy will trolling: http://www.slate.com/articles/health_and_science/climate_desk/2014/02/internet_troll_personality_study_machiavellianism_narcissism_psychopathy.html

By the way, did you get the comment I made on your Frank Abagnale post? I've just checked, and it hasn't gone through. Not sure whether you chose not to accept it or if you didn't get it.

- Gethin

John Craig said...

Gethin --
Thank you again, I should hire you as my personal psychotherapist.

Just read the article, it all makes perfect sense. Why would sociopaths act any other way when they're on line? And being anonymous allows them the luxury of indulging their sociopathy without fear of consequences. It would actually be surprising if they didn't act like sociopaths online.

No, I didn't get your Frank Abagnale comment, may I ask you to re-send it? I sometimes get reports of comments which didn't appear, it seems to happen from time to time. I wouldn't ever not publish a comment from you. In fact, I always publish the comments from trolls as well, as long as they're relevant to the post. The only ones I don't publish are the spam advertisements for other websites.

Steven said...

I don't have a high number of facebook friends and my picture is a huskey. But to be fair I settled on the huskey because I couldn't find a profile picture I was happy with- vanity.

Its weird when people have like 700 friends on fbook...they must have been adding everybody they met.

Some people I like better in real life than on fbook. In real life they seem really nice and you can see their good qualities but on fbook they make a lot of self-indulgent updates, which slightly annoys.

Facebook-turning you against you friends since 2005.








Steven said...

I would like to make more posts of substance on fbook. I've just come to realise that a lot of people on my fbook aren't going to be that interested and I don't want to bore them or bombard them with complicated things.

I post a lot of music. There is an element of 'this says something about me' but also I want them to hear and appreciate some of the music I love. This is what I want to share.

John Craig said...

Steven --
I think your attitude -- about both your picture and your tastes in music -- are fairly typical.

I have to wonder which is the *real* person, the one you know personally or the one you see on Facebook. I've always thought that what people write is closer to being them than the act they've perfected for social reasons.

I agree with you about people who have 700 friends. But that's more a young person thing, and it's hard to tell if they achieved that count passively or actively. (I've heard it's considered somewhat rude to just turn someone's friend request down.) Of course, most of my information on this is from my daughter, from back when she was in high school.

Steven said...

Probably the whole thing encourages narcissism to some extent and gives the most narcissistic a platform.

The term 'selfie' says it all really.


Anonymous said...

I rarely look at facebook. There are people who are literally addicted to facebook, posting daily (e.g., one of my brother-in-law's falls into this category). I really don't care about half of what is posted, thus, I rarely go to facebook. It can cause people to get sucked into competing against each other (aka "friends") - everyone is showing everyone else how wonderful their life is (via their awesome snapshots). A friend of mine shut her facebook page down for this reason. I don't blame her. She actually has an awesome life - a great husband and four wonderful children.

-birdie

John Craig said...

Birdie --
I don't blame you. It's hard to get into pictures of "friends" you may not even know all that well having drinks at a restaurant with their old friends.

And you're right, much of it does seem to be about showing off what a wonderful life you have. I have yet to see the update, "My life sucks, I"m stuck in a rut I can't get out of, my health is going downhill, I can't stand my spouse, and my kids are a pain."

Anonymous said...

I very much agree with the having 700 + friends on Facebook. I find it interesting that adults over the age of 40 have 2000 friends. Do they even know half these people. My Facebook is very private. I know every single person on my Facebook personally. Then again I only have about 102 friends. Most are people I currently interact with and the others are my friends I have reconnected with from high school and college. I believe a sociopath feel the more friends they have, validates them. The same sociopath I have been targeted by has the max number of facebook friends and over 10K people following on twitter. Strange that so many people have accepted her friend request when the entire community has been screwed over by her in someway

John Craig said...

Anon --
That is strange. But it's hard to say no to someone on Facebook, you really have to be holding a grudge do do that.

But the number of Twitter followers she has is surprising (and not). Just does to show how successfully manipulative a sociopath can be, I guess.