A recent study reveals that an increase in narcissistic traits may be an unwanted result of sharing images, including selfies, “excessively” on social media.

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A new study unearths a potential risk of posting pictures.

The findings, which appear in The Open Psychology Journal, show that participants who posted large numbers of photos and selfies on social media developed a 25 percent rise in narcissistic traits over the 4-month study period.

This uptick in traits pushed some participants past the diagnostic cutoff for narcissistic personality disorder.

Social media allows us to share major life events and daily musings alike with friends, family, and colleagues. It makes connecting with people around the world easy, and people who use platforms strategically can develop online followings.

However, posting too many photos, including selfies, may have drawbacks.

Researchers from Swansea University in the United Kingdom and Milan University in Italy worked with 74 participants, who ranged in age from 18–34, for 4 months.

Sixty percent of participants used Facebook, 25 percent used Instagram, and 13 percent used Twitter and Snapchat each.

On average, the participants used social media for around 3 hours a day, not including use for work, but some participants reported personal use of up to 8 hours a day.

Overall, those who posted images in quantities that the researchers considered “excessive” showed an average 25 percent increase in narcissistic traits over the study period.

Interestingly, participants who posted words rather than images did not demonstrate this increase.

This distinct personality disorder encompasses many traits.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, there are 10 types of personality disorder, and each affects at least two of the following factors:

  • how a person thinks about themselves and others
  • how a person responds emotionally
  • how a person relates to others
  • how they control their own behavior

Narcissistic personality disorder occurs when a person has a need for admiration from others, while at the same time lacking empathy.

Many people with this disorder experience self-importance and entitlement, which can result in taking advantage of people.

To receive a diagnosis, a person must exhibit persistent impairments, such as making excessive attempts to attract attention or experiencing problems with goal-setting or interpersonal relationships.

However, some individuals experience narcissistic traits without this type of impact.

Social media focuses on the individual user. As numbers of likes or views go up, the user can feel more “seen,” which can improve self-esteem. It can also lead to further attention-seeking.

The link between social media use and narcissism has been a focus of research in recent years, as cell phone use has increased, and it will likely continue to be a topic of study.

The ease of posting a photo in seconds, regardless of where a person is or what they are doing, can result in oversharing. This can feed the ego in potentially problematic ways, as the recent findings indicate.

That the predominant usage of social media for the participants was visual, mainly through Facebook, suggests the growth of this personality problem could be seen increasingly more often, unless we recognise the dangers in this form of communication.”

Prof. Phil Reed, lead author

While further research is needed, the recent results may provide insight for those concerned about the effects of social media.