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Study: more Facebook friends means more narcissism

As Facebook has gone mainstream, new studies attempt to find patterns in user behavior, and while this particular study focuses on college students, it is fascinating to study how network size impacts behavior and vice versa.

The “dark side” of Facebook

For years, AGBeat has promoted the idea that Facebook can be a great business tool, and now that the social network is mainstream and giant, studies are being done on the impact the site has on users (and vice versa). First reported in The Guardian1, a new study out of Western Illinois University has found that of the 294 college students studied, those with more Facebook friends tended to score higher on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory questionnaire.

The study revealed that those with the most Facebook friends tend to respond more aggressively to comments, and they update their status and profile pictures more frequently. Additionally those with large numbers of Facebook friends were more likely to accept friend requests from strangers, and they were more likely to seek social support, but less likely to provide it.

Past studies have linked narcissism with Facebook use, but this is the first to offer evidence linking volume of Facebook friends with the toxic elements of narcissistic personality disorder.

Christopher Carpenter, who operated the study, said, “In general, the ‘dark side’ of Facebook requires more research in order to better understand Facebook’s socially beneficial and harmful aspects in order to enhance the former and curtail the latter.”

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“If Facebook is to be a place where people go to repair their damaged ego and seek social support, it is vitally important to discover the potentially negative communication one might find on Facebook and the kinds of people likely to engage in them. Ideally, people will engage in pro-social Facebooking rather than anti-social me-booking,” Christopher added.

Questioning the study

While the study is not shocking, it is interesting. We do not believe that roughly 300 college kids in an isolated area is indicative of all 850 million Facebook users. The study could just as equally prove that college students are narcissistic, not that people with many Facebook friends are narcissistic. The study could be used to prove that the more Facebook friends one has, the more permissive they are with accepting requests as they’ve given up on having a tiny walled garden of privacy.

It seems like a stretch to use this study to comment on Facebook users, rather, it appears a study on college students using social media which is far different than businesses attempting to build a brand. Facebook is not evil and having a strong network is not narcissistic, but the truth is somewhere in the middle, so users should take this opportunity to consider how aggressive they are on Facebook and how self centered their updates are.

1Guardian story

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Lani is the COO and News Director at The American Genius, has co-authored a book, co-founded BASHH, Austin Digital Jobs, Remote Digital Jobs, and is a seasoned business writer and editorialist with a penchant for the irreverent.

18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. Joan

    March 22, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    Question the study, indeed. The most recent Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders no longer identifies narcissism as a personality disorder and this fact should have been considered and reported in this study, and even in this article. Perhaps some Facebook members simply like statistics, and an unfettered “friends” counter might tell them something they like to know. Such as, how much spam reached their account on a given day.

    Next thing we know, 5000 “friends” indicating so-called narcissism will be grounds to deny health benefits or a job, yet with mental health professionals, narcissism doesn’t exist.

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