An individual’s level of narcissism is displayed not in how many Twitter followers they have, but is more closely correlated to how many Tweets they send about themselves, according to a study by Bruce C. McKinney, Lynne Kelly, & Robert L. Duran in the spring issue of Communications Research Reports, an academic journal. But on Facebook, the opposite holds true: Narcissism was directly correlated with the number of friends a person has on the social network, and not necessarily by the number of status updates they post about their personal lives.
“These findings suggest that Facebook is not dominated by narcissistic millennials, as some have proposed, although, consistent with previous research, those higher on narcissism appear to be driven to amass a larger number of Facebook friends,” the researchers wrote. “Results suggest that Twitter may be the network of choice for narcissists, which may, in part, account for the substantially lower number of Twitter users, as compared to Facebook users.”
The study not only sheds light on who we are and how we behave online, but also on the stark differences in how people use Facebook and Twitter for distinctly different purposes. The study focused on undergraduate students, as millennials have most often been linked to narcissistic behavior and social media use, and builds on earlier research that had produced mixed results about the relationship between social network use and narcissism.
In addition to being the first academic study to focus on the correlation between narcissism and Twitter use, it builds on some earlier work that suggests people’s willingness to share information on Facebook has more to do with their comfort levels surrounding personal privacy. Indeed, as the authors note, early research “found that participants reported a greater likelihood of disclosing personal information on Facebook than face to face.”
“Results of this study suggest that the use of [social networks] by college students is not evidence of narcissism,” the report concluded, while also noting further research is needed. “It appears that the posting of photos of oneself and updating of one’s status on Facebook is more a reflection of young adults’ orientation to openness with regard to their daily lives. However, the usage of Twitter does appear to be somewhat narcissistically driven. Thus, it appears that it is not the technology that creates narcissism as much as it is the narcissistic personality that seeks a form of technology allowing one to be the center of attention.”