How do narcissists use social media

Generation Me - Social Media and Narcissism

04.10.2019 00:00 | Print preview

The possibilities for self-expression have grown through Facebook, Instagram and Co. - also for narcissistic people. You use social networks very often and intensively in order to present yourself as positively as possible. But there is also an inverse correlation: according to studies, adults between the ages of 20 and 30 who grew up on social media show significantly higher levels of narcissism than those over 30. They are also at an increased risk of developing an online addiction . This is what psychologists from the Ruhr University in Bochum point out in the journal “PiD Psychotherapie im Dialog” (Georg Thieme Verlag, Stuttgart. 2019). Therapists should therefore address narcissistic patients early on about excessive use of social media and discuss the reasons with them. At the same time, it is important to look for alternatives, for example in sport, that allow them to be recognized from the outside and at the same time ensure internal satisfaction.

People with a narcissistic personality are characterized by an overly positive self-image. They attach great importance to themselves and are convinced of their uniqueness. Their need for attention and admiration is correspondingly high. "Because of this, narcissists tend to initiate a lot of social relationships," says Dr. Julia Brailovskaia, who researches topics such as media use and personality at the Ruhr University Bochum. In doing so, they initially present themselves as charming and humorous - an impression that remains as long as the contacts remain superficial. "If the relationships deepen, however, typical narcissistic traits such as low empathy and a strong desire for power and control come to light," explains Brailovskaia. Then there are often conflicts and the desired positive feedback is missing.

Not so on Facebook: Social media not only make it possible to make many contacts in a short time - the relationships also usually remain superficial. Narcissists can maintain the positive self-image in the longer term. The medium has a correspondingly attractive effect on narcissistic people. Research shows that they visit Facebook more often and spend more time there than other people.

Conversely, the constant availability of social networks also seems to promote the emergence of narcissistic traits. "Studies show that younger millennials who are in their twenties today have significantly higher levels of narcissism than older millennials," says Brailovskaia. Unlike the over 30s, the younger millennials have already experienced a significant part of their identity formation on platforms such as Facebook.

The intensive use of social media is sometimes problematic. “Narcissism is a risk factor for the development of online addiction, which can lead to further psychological problems such as sleep disorders, anxiety and depression,” says Brailovskaia. As a preventive measure, it is therefore important to provide information about competent media handling as early as possible. Therapeutically, the focus should not be on a complete waiver, but rather on a time limit. It is also important to work out the reasons for media use. "Usually it is a need for attention and recognition that is not adequately satisfied offline," says the Bochum psychologist. The aim here is to find alternatives that can also be used to gain recognition in real life. Through sporting activities, for example, not only mental health, but also physical health can be improved at the same time.

J. Brailovskaia, H.-W. Bierhoff:
Generation Me: Social Media and Narcissism
PiD Psychotherapy in Dialogue 2019; 20 (3): pp. 26-30

Press release Thieme Group