Courtesy Wikimedia Commons“Crazy,” I suppose, might be too strong a word. I generally reserve the “c-word” (not that one) for nighttime bicyclists and anyone who offers me any sort of advice at all. So instead we’ll say that Facebook is good for finding out which of your friends has a potentially harmful psychiatric condition.
Which condition? Well, we’re talking about Web 2.0, so what else could it be but… Narcissism!
Narcissism, for those of you behind on your isms, is a psychiatric condition characterized by a person who is overly self-centered and self-admiring. A narcissist is, more or less, someone a little too in love with themselves. Or way too in love with themselves—it’s a continuum. Narcissists will often use others for their own advantage, instead of focusing on fostering quality relationships. It’s ultimately harmful the associates of narcissists, as well as for the narcissist his- or herself.
The term “Narcissist” comes from an ancient Greek story about a really hot male supermodel named Narcissus. Narcissus was, as they say, fit, and he knew it, and he loved to spend time staring at himself. But this was before they had invented mirrors, so when Narcissus wanted to spend time staring at his face, instead of just the rest of his body, he’d have to go down to the stream to catch his own reflection. At some point, Narcissus found that just looking at his reflection no longer cranked his gears—he needed a little action. But, as the rest of us are no doubt aware, you can’t get any sugar from your own reflection, especially if it’s in the water. And so poor, hot Narcissus fell in and drowned his old self. Or maybe he didn’t drown, maybe he just got Giardia. Whatever. It wasn’t pretty. Such is the case with all narcissism.
So, anyway, a recent study suggests that Facebook profiles can be used to detect narcissism. The study found that people untrained in psychology could easily identify narcissism on profile pages, which is why these findings may not come as a huge surprise to you.
130 Facebook users were given personality questionnaires (to determine their degree of narcissism) and then their profiles were shown to untrained strangers. The viewers’ responses correlated strongly with the professional evaluation of the questionnaires.
So what did people look for in identifying narcissists? Three main things: a large number of “friends,” lots of displayed wallposts, and profile pictures that were more glamorous and self-promoting (as opposed to snapshots).
Narcissists, the study seems to demonstrate, use social networking sites like Facebook in the same way they use personal relationships: “for self-promotion with an emphasis on quantity over quality.” They have a large number of shallow friendships, and focus on self-promotion.
Also, because narcissists have a large number of online friends, you’re average non-narcissist is more likely to be “friends” with a narcissist on a social networking site than in real life (if you will).
So… which of your friends seems to fit the bill? Or, even better, do you? Or do you think that a hot profile picture, and lots of friends and wallposts aren’t good indicators of narcissim—would they give too many false positives and ignore true narcissists?
Defend yourselves or expose yourselves!