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Previous research has suggested that social networking sites like Facebook can do a disservice to those with low self-esteem, and now a Western Illinois University study has found that the same can be said for those with an inclination toward narcissism and anti-social behaviors.

For his study “Narcissism on Facebook: Self-promotional and Anti-Social Behavior,” author Christopher Carpenter said he defined narcissism as “a pervasive pattern of grandiosity, need for admiration and an exaggerated sense of self-importance.”

For a narcissist, Carpenter said, Facebook “offers a gateway for hundreds of shallow relationships and emotionally detached communication.” Facebook and other social networking sites also give people the ability to craft how they are perceived by peers and fellow users, which is especially important to note in relation to this study, he said.

Carpenter, a professor at Western Illinois, asked students in his research methods class to email people they knew to complete the survey:

“Approximately 75 percent of respondents were college students, he said. He hypothesized the grandiose exhibitionism (GE) subscale of the NPI would predict the self-promoting behaviors. The entitlement/exploitativeness (EE) subscale was hypothesized to predict the anti-social behaviors. GE includes vanity, superiority, self-absorption and exhibitionistic tendencies. EE includes a sense of deserving respect and a willingness to manipulate and take advantage of others, Carpenter explained. Results showed grandiose exhibitionism correlated with self-promotion and entitlement/exploitativeness correlated with anti-social behaviors on Facebook. Self-esteem was unrelated to self-promotion behaviors and it was negatively associated with some anti-social behaviors (i.e. self-esteem was related to less of these anti-social behaviors).”

“If Facebook is to be a place where people go to repair their damaged ego and seek social support, it is vitally important to discover the potentially negative communication one might find on Facebook and the kinds of people likely to engage in them,” Carpenter said. “Ideally, people will engage in pro-social Facebooking rather than anti-social me-booking. In general, the ‘dark side’ of Facebook requires more research in order to better understand Facebook’s socially beneficial and harmful aspects in order to enhance the former and curtail the latter.”

Source: Western Illinois University

Heather Rudow is a staff writer for Counseling Today. Email her at hrudow@counseling.org.

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