Which of your friends are crazy? Check Facebook.

Don't do it, Narcissus: You can't fox around with your own reflection! And you shouldn't try!
Don't do it, Narcissus: You can't fox around with your own reflection! And you shouldn't try!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!

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Curious's picture
Curious says:

Sadly enough, but very true. The profile description sounded exactly like my brother's. Very funny and sad. But sometimes we have to keep in mind that what people pretend to be and promote themselves to be online may not be what they are in real life. In a way Facebook allows one to create one's own image, which allows for the possibility of people stretching facts/things here and there to be someone else they think is "cooler" or better than who they really are.

posted on Fri, 09/26/2008 - 4:13pm
JGordon's picture
JGordon says:

You're right—just because someone has a ton of friends on facebook, or a flattering profile pic doesn't mean that they are narcissist. But there does seem to be a connection between people who are narcissists (in "real life") and that sort of profile. The study didn't say much about false positives, but I'm sure that they were present.

posted on Fri, 09/26/2008 - 4:33pm
Kristal L. Rosebrook's picture
Kristal L. Rosebrook says:

I have many friends with this diagnosis. What does that say about me : )

posted on Tue, 10/07/2008 - 2:16am
lauragrrl's picture
lauragrrl says:

much of this is obviously accurate-having a lot of friends makes you seems popular in real life, so people just go through & add people as often as they can to make themselves seem cool. if that isnt narcisism idk what is! actually, ive gotten caught up in the facebook friend perception too "wow, she only has 300 friends?" or else ill be intimidated by someone who has 1000+ friends. so yeah its common as hell for this to happen, probably everyone is like that so some degree. interesting to hear it brought up.

posted on Tue, 12/30/2008 - 2:34pm
Cathy Doggins's picture

JGordon, I take offense to your comment regarding catching giardia as a source of narcissistic behavior. I'm a researcher on the topic and have had a dog die because of this disease. I know you just said it to make a point, but I would be careful as comments like this could provoke memories we wish we wouldn't have to revisit.

posted on Sun, 10/16/2011 - 4:18pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:


posted on Wed, 04/25/2012 - 11:18am

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