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Vanity, thy name is Facebook?

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For the narcissists among us, Facebook and Twitter are a virtual dream come true, says a new study.

Social networking sites permit people to "construct and maintain a carefully considered self-image" that they can share with countless people and collect and control feedback, University of Michigan researchers Elliot Panek, Yioryos Nardis and Sara Konrath said in a new study in Computers in Human Behavior.

While everyone enjoys posting pictures and comments, and getting compliments and "likes," people who think very highly of themselves find Facebook and Twitter exceptionally important tools, said the study.

That's because, to a narcissist, Facebook can serve as a "mirror" and Twitter as a "megaphone," it said.

The study was based on findings from 486 college students and 93 adults. They were measured on their Facebook and Twitter use, as well as how they scored on traits such as superiority, vanity, sense of entitlement and exhibitionism.

The researchers found that in both groups as narcissism scores rose, so did their use of social media.

Notably, Mr. Panek and his colleagues found that age made a difference: The college students, whose average age was 19, liked to post on both Twitter and Facebook, while the adults, whose average age was 35, preferred Facebook.

This may be because adults "usually have already formed their social selves and they use social media to gain approval from those who are already in their social circles," said Mr. Panek, noting that Facebook is all about "friending."

For college students — especially those with high opinions about their opinions — Twitter enables them to broadcast their views at any time to a potentially large audience, including people they don't know.

The study was limited in that it could not determine whether narcissism led to increased use of social media or if social media promotes narcissism.

It also did not comment about the kind of content was posted or shared. This was an important caveat, as it is expected that frequent posts about one's own accomplishments, thoughts and feelings "would be indicative of narcissism, while [frequent] posts related to news events would not," wrote Mr. Panek, a doctoral graduate in media studies.

Funding for the study came in part from The Character Project, sponsored by Wake Forest University via the John Templeton Foundation.

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About the Author
Cheryl Wetzstein

Cheryl Wetzstein

Cheryl Wetzstein covers family and social issues as a national reporter for The Washington Times. She has been a reporter for three decades, working in New York City and Washington, D.C. Since joining The Washington Times in 1985, she has been a features writer, environmental and consumer affairs reporter, and assistant business editor.

Beginning in 1994, Mrs. Wetzstein worked exclusively ...

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