Wednesday June 12, 2013 | 08:30 AM
Posted by Rob Gould

In shocking news, social media use has been linked to narcissism, feelings of superiority, and vanity. A new study from the University of Michigan’s Department of Communication Studies and its Institute for Social Research explores how social media reflects and amplifies the culture's growing levels of narcissism.

I don't know about you, but when I read this news I was floored. Totally blown away. I mean, social media use and narcissism? Who knew? Anyway, the study, published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior and titled Mirror or Megaphone?: How relationships between narcissism and social networking site use differ on Facebook and Twitter, investigates how two major social networks, Facebook and Twitter, are used by different age groups displaying different narcissistic traits.

So, first let me fill you in on the findings of this study and then I'll give you my thoughts. Because, I'm important and people should listen to me. Obviously.

So, here are the facts: among young adult college students, the study found that those who scored higher in certain types of narcissism posted more often on Twitter. But among middle-aged adults from the general population, narcissists posted more frequent status updates on Facebook.

Apparently, Facebook serves narcissistic adults (not me) as a mirror. It's all about curating your own image, how you are seen, and checking on how others respond to this image. Middle-aged adults (who?) usually have already formed their social selves, and they use social media to gain approval from those who are already in their social circles. This kind of behavior is just appalling. I mean, who does this?

For narcissistic college students (obviously not me), the social media tool of choice is the "megaphone" of Twitter. I know you'll be shocked by this too, but young people tend to overvalue the importance of their own opinions. Using Twitter, they try to broaden their social circles and broadcast their views about a wide range of topics and issues. So annoying.

So, there you have it. All very disturbing. Who knew there are so many people like this out there? So selfish. Like the vast majority of you, I use social media solely for the benefit of others. You know, to effect positive change in the world and stuff. All of these disturbed middle-aged adults who are trying to use Facebook to curate their own image are just sick, sick, sick. It's very sad.

The good news is, I feel a lot better about my own social media use after reading about these huge roaming herds of wildly self-absorbed people. Now, excuse me while I go groom myself for my daily mid-morning series of Instagram self-portraits. Happy Wednesday everyone.

Please file this study under: whatever

*I've titled the photo above, "the grouchy narcissist" (it was really early).

If you'd like to read more about this groundbreaking study, I'd suggest checking out coverage by Erik Sass, The Social Graph and the write-up in Science Daily. They both helped me out with the facts for this post.


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Social media has changed the way that many of us learn, purchase, interact and explore the world around us. And, things are just getting started. Social, Social is a place to discuss social media with people from all walks of life. No experts allowed.

About the Author

Rob works as a digital marketing & public relations consultant to agencies, brands, and individuals. He has 20 years of marketing experience. He also currently serves in a volunteer capacity as director of pr/communications for TEDxDirigo. From 2005-2011, Rob served as director of social media & agency communications at The VIA Agency (Portland). Prior to VIA, Rob worked with several PR & advertising agencies in London & Boston. He is a graduate of The University of Vermont (UVM) and a Maine transplant (2002).

Follow Rob on Twitter at @bobbbyg

His real-life interests include art, travel, writing, design, psychology, the beach, & exercise (grudgingly at times).

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