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What Your Instagram Likes Say About Narcissism

By Hoku Krueger ; Updated January 12, 2018

Not surprisingly, narcissists love a good selfie. But it turns out they love them even when they’re not in front of the camera. According to a new study from Sejong University in Seoul, South Korea, narcissists are not only more likely to post selfies, they also tend to follow and engage with other narcissists on Instagram.

Narcissism, a term you’ve probably heard used in association with love-to-hate celebrities and executives, is a personality disorder characterized by self-absorption and a lack of empathy. And with so much self-promotion going on on social media, the world is beginning to wonder just how common narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is and whether platforms like Instagram are boosting its prevalence.

In the first of their two-part study, the researchers evaluated the narcissistic tendencies of 276 adult Instagram users, asking them how much they agreed with statements like “I really like to be the center of attention” and “I like to look at my body.”

Those who post more selfies were more likely to show signs of inherent narcissism.

The participants also assessed the perceived narcissism of other Instagrammers, scoring them on traits like arrogance and self-confidence and rating how much they agreed with statements like “she likes to show off her body” and “she likes to be the center of attention.”

It turns out that in terms of social media behavior, narcissism loves company. “Whereas non-narcissists indicated more negative attitude towards selfies, lower intention to post selfies and lower intention to follow the selfie-posting Instagram users than narcissists, narcissists indicated higher intention to follow the selfie-posting Instagram users,” Seunga Venus Jin, tenured associate professor of marketing at Sejong Univeristy’s Department of Business Administration and the study’s lead author, tells Broadly.

But if you prefer to avoid social media altogether, you’re not exactly exempt. It’s important to note that the researchers focused on just one of the two types of narcissism, grandiose narcissism, which is characterized by extraversion, arrogance and entitlement.

Vulnerable narcissists, on the other hand, are introverted, emotionally sensitive and appear to be “overcompensating” due to fears of rejection and abandonment, according to Randi Kreger, an expert on NPD. And one 2016 study revealed that vulnerable narcissists tend to shy away from social media.

If it seems like you’re getting mixed signals, you are. A narcissistic disorder can present in two very different ways, and then there are people who may display narcissistic characteristics without having a full-blown clinical disorder.

Before you jump to a self-diagnosis, know that only about 1 percent of the population has narcissistic personality disorder — even if your feed full of Facetuned selfies on Insta might have you thinking otherwise.

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