Grasping one’s phone after sharing a selfie, and watching as the ‘Likes’ pour in, provides a certain unparalleled rush to many Instagram users. Although this thrill may be common for uploaders on this successful social media site a recent Western University study reveals a high level of narcissism, coupled with a weak sense of peer belonging, leads millions of these young adults to take part in deceptive like-seeking methods.
This is done in an effort to receive attention and validation as others double-tap their photos, hence increasing a sense of popularity.
Tara Dumas, Huron University College psychology professor, along with Matthew Maxwell-Smith, visiting professor in the DAN Management and Organizational Studies Department, conducted this study, which was published in the journal Computers in Human Behaviour, and surveyed a wide range of 18 to 29 year olds.
Their results showed not only was narcissism predominantly tied to why Instagrammers showcase themselves, but also there are two types of like-seeking.
While the majority of participants were driven by “normative narcissism”, the more commonly known method of using hashtags and filters to expand viewership, a large percentage of respondents resorted to a more complex area of “deceptive narcissism” -this self-promotion ranges from utilizing software to enhance one’s appearance, to going so far as spending up to $70 to buy likes from Instagram.
“I knew they were all about the ‘selfie phenomenon,’ but I didn’t know the extent some young people were taking in terms of purchasing followers,” said Dumas.
Up to 15 per cent of survey respondents admitted to buying likes, while more than 25 per cent confessed they digitally altered their image.
Maxwell-Smith added when those numbers are extrapolated, taking into account those soon approaching adulthood, it’s close to 25 million people engaging in dishonest online behaviour.
For both professors, these numbers suggest alarming implications in regard to how young adults hold their self-competency and esteem.
Dumas questioned if these fraudulent tactics actually make these people feel better about themselves.
“The reason why narcissists do these things is to appear more cool and creative, but why are they doing this? Is it about developing their identity?”
Maxwell-Smith pointed out those who score relatively high on peer belonging are less likely to resort to deceptive like-seeking.
“So it’s not necessarily the case if you’re on Instagram, and you’re uploading a photo, it means you’re a narcissist. It could also mean you feel you belong within your peer group and you just want to share,” he explained.
A new comprehensive study conducted by psychology researchers at the University of Georgia, found social media use and narcissism can be broken down into two strains.
Grandiose is the extroverted form that relates to how often people access social media, the frequency of updates and selfie posts, and how many friends and followers they collect.
Vulnerable is the more insecure form, which didn’t show any ties to social media, though an insignificant amount of research was performed with this type of narcissism.
Despite the strong findings from Dumas and Maxwell-Smith’s initial study, both professors are clear their exploration into this matter is far from complete. Moving forward they hope to examine how these narcissistic tendencies develop over time and are affected by peer competition.