April 06, 2011, 8:57 PM — Who could see this one coming? That is, besides anyone with a Facebook account.
New research concludes that college students who use Facebook and other technology platforms to proclaim their awesomeness -- rather than, you know, connecting with
their inferiors other human beings -- exhibit classic signs of narcissism.
Flagler College psychology professor Meghan Saculla and Western Kentucky University psychology professor W. Pitt Derryberry will present their findings at an educational research conference that begins on Friday in New Orleans.
The researchers observed how 279 students used Electronic Media and Communication Devices (EMCDs) to post content to popular social networking sites, and then followed up with surveys to determine students' self-perceptions. The goal of the study was to determine links between technology use, narcissism and the development of moral judgment.
The researchers' main finding confirmed their previous suspicions: students who used technology and social media tools specifically to promote themselves and attempt to gain popularity tended to come off as narcissistic. Those students also tended to self-report as narcissistic, showing a correlation between perception and self-reporting.
"[M]ales reported that they are more likely than females to use Facebook/MySpace as a vehicle for popularity, to use cell phones as a means of creating a medial identity, to isolate themselves with these technological devices, and to use Facebook/MySpace and cell phones for exhibitionistic display," reads the paper. "[T]hough females tend to use EMCDs more often than males, the attitudes of males regarding their EMCD usage appear to be more detrimental for social functioning."
Two quick points here:
* They use MySpace as a "vehicle for popularity"? Really? Were they also wearing raccoon coats and doing the Jitterbug?
* "The attitudes of males regarding their EMCD usage appear to be more detrimental for social functioning." Translation: College guys can be real jerks. Technology or no technology, it's reassuring to know that some things never change.
Saculla and Derryberry acknowledge the limitations of their research, including a larger sample of female students and a limited socioeconomic demographic.
The professors also emphasize they're not suggesting that using electronic devices and social networking automatically makes you (or transforms you into) a narcissist. The self-love comes first. The social networking and EMCDs are tools for making the rest of the world love the narcissists as much as the narcissists love themselves. Which, if you know any narcissists, actually is fairly impossible.