A new study suggests that social media can cause narcissism and a weaker sense of peer belonging. The study, which was published in Computers in Human Behavior, found that adults age 18 to 29 exhibit a need for attention and validation from others. A desire to fulfill these needs via “likes” on social networking sites often lead to fraudulent or manipulative tactics.
That is, people are curating their digital selves so that appear a certain way in order to increase the chances for “likes” on their posts.
The study separated “like-seeking behavior” that was normative (common actions like using filters and hashtags) or deceptive (deceitful actions like photoshopping one’s photos or buying likes or followers).
on Apr 16, 2016 at 1:04am PDT
Huron University College Psychology professor Tara Dumas was inspired to study social media behaviors after talking with her students. She learned young users tendencies to purchase likes or manipulate their images was more widespread than she’d expected.
For example, she learned of one woman who doesn’t upload pictures without first giving herself a “digital nose job.”
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“That term really struck me,” she added in her analysis. “We had an idea young people were doing a variety of like-seeking behaviours and, I believe, to some extent that young people were buying likes and modifying their physical appearance, but we were surprised at the percentage of young people who were saying, ‘Ya, we do these things.'”
Around 15 percent of participants were buying likes while more than 25 percent admitted to modifying their physical appearance.
Applying those number to all users of Instagram, up to 25 million people are likely using manipulation or deceit to grow their social media presence.
“This seems to be more deceptive, and voluntarily intending to present a false image, than just finding a good image of yourself,” Matthew Maxwell-Smith, co-author of the study, said.
One major takeaway from the study was that people who feel they strongly belong to peer groups are significantly less likely to engage in the deceptive tactics. And just because you enjoy uploading photos to your Instagram page doesn’t automatically make you a narcissist. It can be just fun. In fact, you may feel a sense of belonging to your peer group by simply posting.
“There are probably positive and social benefits to using Instagram,” said Matthew Maxwell-Smith.
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It is worth noting, however, that people who displayed more narcissistic tendencies online were also those who had a lower sense of peer belonging in real life.
Moral of the story: Accept others in life, show love and support to each other IRL. And maybe come clean, like this famous Instagram model.