Maggie Shiels

Facebookers are narcissists

  • Maggie Shiels
  • 25 Sep 08, 08:22 GMT

Don't shoot the messenger here, but if you have a Facebook account then the chances are it signifies you are a narcissist.

Facebook pageThat's the view of a couple of people from the University of Georgia. Laura Buffardi is a doctoral student in phsychology and W. Keith Campbell is an associate professor there.

The two decided to look at Facebook because of its amazing popularity. It boasts around a 100 million users and is the number one social networking site among students. Also it has a fixed format so it made it easier for the researchers to compare user pages.

So how did they come up with the conclusion that Facebookers are attention seekers who just want to be liked? Well they gave personality questionnaires to nearly 130 Facebook users, not a great research base given the number of people who have signed up to the site I would suggest.

The researchers analysed the content of the pages of these 130 users and then had untrained strangers view the pages and give their impression of the owner's narcissism.

The results showed that the number of Facebook friends and wallposts that people have on their pages correleates with narcissism. Here's the kicker. Ms Buffardi said this is consistent with how narcissists behave in the real world with numerous yet shallow relationships. Ouch!

Narcissists, she said, are also more likely to choose glamorous, self-promoting pictures for their main profile pages while others are more likely to use snapshots. Hey what's wrong with looking good for your public?

Untrained observers spotted the "if I was chocolate I would eat myself" kind of person by looking at the number of social interatcions, attractiveness of the individual and the degree of self promotion in the main photo.

The researchers said these novices came up with the same conclusions.

"Narcissists are using Facebook the same way they use their other relationships - for self promotion with the emphasis on quantity over quality," said Professor Campbell.

Okay fess up time. I have a Facebook account. I have 123 friends. And my picture shows the back of my head. My best view!


  • Comment number 1.

    What a pointless article. 130 is FAR to small a sample size to even warrant a mention - I could produce a more informative study.

    Facebook was good while it was exclusive to Universities, an easy way to arrange events and swap pictures. Since the invasion of Joe Public it's now full of idiots broadcastiong their lives - and it's funny how the least interesting people spend the most time talking about themselves isn't it?!

    The type of people who are narcisstic of facebook are likely to be the same in real life, facebook just broadcasts this trait more readily.

    Mark, York

  • Comment number 2.

    I would have to agree with the study.

    Facebook is all about about self-promotion and the mindset of 'look at me - this is what I'm up to'.

    Most Facebook friends are people you wouldn't normally be bothered speaking to in the real world and so it is very much a fantasy world where people jockey for position in order to appear to have more 'interesting' lives than their Facebook friends.

    Most genuinely interesting people are normally busy doing something worthwhile or interesting in the real world........

    .....light the touch paper and stand well back!!

  • Comment number 3.

    I am a narcissist and proud of it. I want my photos to look good, why wouldn't I? The real narcissists are those who untag ugly photos of themselves.

    I want information there for people who are interested - I don't shove it down their throats, I don't go into intimate detail, but there's a lot more on my profile than many other people's.

    I have over 1000 friends. Pretty much all of them I have met face to face and had a conversation with, the rest are mostly fans of my music. I try and maintain regular contact with them, and there are very few of them where I could describe our relationship as intentionally shallow.

    Thing is, even if I am a narcissist, their statistical base is ridiculous. If I asked 100 people in Soho if they'd ever had sex for money, and 80% of them said yes, I could hardly assume that 80% of Londoners are prostitutes, could I? All these 'findings' really do is cast doubt on the educational establishment that is the University of Georgia.

  • Comment number 4.

    I have not read the research, so my views are wholly based on the information in this blog.
    That said, some thoughts:

    1) The Facebook format requires you to put an image up of yourself - I would expect the majority of normal people would choose one that flatters themselves;

    2) How were the 130 chosen? I do not have any contact details listed and I resist attempts by people I do not know to contact me - I suspect the respondents were either people who like filling in personality questionaires or friends of the researchers;

    3) IMHO Facebook by it's entire ethos encourages superficial contact between people who have limited contact - giving someone a 'poke' etc. cannot be described as serious discourse.

    Anyway, who cares - next thing we'll find out is that the BBC blogs are full of pedants bitching about life, the universe and everything.

    PS are you a narcissist 'cos you have a picture on your blog?

  • Comment number 5.

    I agree with the first comment about the size of the study; however, I can see that there is some truth in the results gathered. There is a lot of mindless conversation going on and propelled by Facebook.

    I have seen perfectly reasonable and reserved people turn narcissistic on Facebook - Taking glamorous modeling shots for their profile and posting numerous status updates about the contents of their lunch.

    On the opposite side though it fails to mention about the growing business use of Facebook. I am employed by a small business in Cornwall. Facebook provides our local businesses (spread across a large area) with a route to keep up to date with local news, networking opportunities and to market our companies to each other.

    As part of that we may use our personal profile as a tool to forward our own careers or business interests. This may appear narcissistic to others but surely it is nothing more than personal brand management?

  • Comment number 6.

    Reliag, I think that's a rather narrow-minded view, much like the "computer games are anti-social" argument. I have many friends abroad, in America for example, that Facebook is absolutely the best way to keep in touch with. I can see how they're getting on with their lives and vice versa, we can chat without paying phone bills or having to resort to email (though I also keep in touch with some via forums), we can create groups and events. Your assumption seems to be that those self-promoting have nothing to promote, but what about all the politicians, musicians, actors etc. who have Facebook pages.

    By way of example, my mother is an avid gardener, is teaching horticulture for the RSC, has just completed a chemistry A-level and is starting a Biology A-level so she can go study Botany. She is anything but a narcissist, she just finds Facebook the best way to keep in touch with me and my brothers at university, and her friends far away or abroad.

  • Comment number 7.

    What a ridiculous article. About 99% of people I went to university with as an undergraduate are Facebook users, are 99% of university students (at least physicists) really narcissists? Facebook might encourage activities which would be considered narcissism in the "real world", but on Facebook, adding everyone on your course as a friend, filling out the profile information and uploading lots of photos (I've very rarely tagged photos of myself, usually the person who uploads them does) is just the normal etiquette. Narcissism would probably be having 1000+ friends and uploading self-portraits daily.

  • Comment number 8.

    You have completely and utterly misunderstood and mis-reported the study. It is not in any sense whatsoever implying that Facebook users are narcissistic.

    In fact they SPECIFICALLY say that there is no evidence of Facebook users being more narcissistic than others.

    The study is about whether an untrained observer's perception of narcissism in a facebook profile correlates with narcissism in real life. Facebook is a tool used by the research; it is not the point of the research.

  • Comment number 9.

    And by the way, there's no such thing as "phsychology".

  • Comment number 10.

    Very interesting, MisterSkills! That sounds a lot more plausible, and reflects a worrying trend in science journalism to report on the most sensationalist way you can misinterpret the results rather than the actual conclusion.

  • Comment number 11.

    I think it's extremely unfair to brand someone a narcissist just because they're profile pic portrays them in a favourable light. I can't help it if I look great in every photo...

  • Comment number 12.

    I Have to agree with the theory of the report. I really 2 years ago when I started Uni but now its just full of people I really couldn't care less about.

    Almost everyday I have a friend request from someone who I've never talked to but have just seen around. The funny thing is they've never made an effort to be friends but think I'd look good on thier friend list.

    And pointless status updates telling me about the most uninteresting things.

    Facebook isn't really about keeping in contact with people anymore, its about looking like you are keeping contact with people. People seem to want to give the impression they've got lots of friends and a great life when really they don't, they just have a blown up facebook account with a fake image.

  • Comment number 13.

    I wonder how many of those millions of Facebook users have active accounts?

    I don't think I've looked at mine in over two months and a quick straw poll at work gives a similar story.

  • Comment number 14.


    If you read the last sentence of my comment you would see that I was being somewhat provocative and toungue in cheek.

    However, you freely admit that you are narcissistic which backs up the study and also much of your argument does not make sense:

    You use Facebook so you don't have to resort to email or pay huge phone bills??? Personally, I find email both quicker and more personal and I also use Skype.

    Politicians, Actors, Musicians with Facebook pages??? Possibly the most Narcissistic selection people on the planet.

    Personally, I have no issue with Facebook - it is yet another form of mindless communication following on from SMS texting, personal blogs and personal websites. If you have the time to do it..fine. But lets at least be honest as to why most people use it.

  • Comment number 15.

    I think every BBC blog I look at has some smug person saying "What a pointless article"...

    Anyway, I agree that this seems article seems to be fudging the actual survey into being about "Facebook users are narcissists" which is more attention-grabbing, instead of "Narcissistic Facebook users have narcissistic Facebook profiles" - which is more obvious and less interesting.

  • Comment number 16.

    And don't say 'Don't shoot the messenger here' as you were hardly forced to report this rubbish story. You chose to.

    How about reporting some equally rubbish ones for me on this global website with that disclaimer, here are a few studies I have just conducted:

    1. 99% of 4 year olds are under 5!

    Possible headline: Baby Age Scandal!

    2. If you're a pensioner, chances are you experience discomfort sometime throughout the day.

    Possible headline: OAP's lead painful existence!

    3. 100% of journalists sensationalise their work to appeal to readers.

    Possible headline: Journalists don't report facts

    Of course, that would probably be sensationalised too, by a reporter pretending it doesn't apply to him/her/it.

    Mark, York

  • Comment number 17.

    I must as I am very unimpressed with this study.

    I would strongly suggest that rather than those who sign up are being narcissistic, its facebook itself promotes narcissism by its very nature. As a result the vast majority of members will appear narcissistic.

  • Comment number 18.

    A press release from the University points out that there's NO evidence that Facebook users are more narcissistic than others.
    It reads: "Some researchers in the past have found that personal Web pages are more popular among narcissists, but Campbell said there’s no evidence that Facebook users are more narcissistic than others.

    “Nearly all of our students use Facebook, and it seems to be a normal part of people’s social interactions,” Campbell said. “It just turns out that narcissists are using Facebook the same way they use their other relationships – for self promotion with an emphasis on quantity of over quality.”

    The entire release is at

  • Comment number 19.

    Like many things on the internet the usage of tools changes - we use facebook between our family and close friends who we already know - and are connecting to more and more "old" friends daily.

    As they (CF) continue to gleen revenue, facebook will grow and evolve. I for one am happy, I do not have to look at other peep sites if I do not want - and I am even thinking that I might look at the FB api...

    OH - And given the size of the facebook community 130 peep for a survey is a joke.

    Written post coffee in a restaurant on my smart (or not so) phone.

  • Comment number 20.

    Wow, people passing judgement on millions of others with no real research. It could only happen on the internet...

  • Comment number 21.

    Since the invasion of Joe Public it's now full of idiots broadcastiong their lives


    And this effects yu or anyone else how exactly?

    The whole point about Facebook for me is that it is self determining. You decide who's profile you visit and more importantly who can see and contribute to yours.


    I don't think I've looked at mine in over two months and a quick straw poll at work gives a similar story.


    Considering it's dual role as a picture file store I would be rather peeved if accounts were closed after months not logging in. If you dont ant your account them close it.

  • Comment number 22.

    I find quite a lot of the comments about facebook members a little insulting.

    I am neither stupid, shallow or narcissistic.

    I do not use it to put up pointless statements in order to glam up my sad life

    Granted - I have friends that are casual aquaintances more than bosom buddies but to ignore them would be rude!

    I use facebook a lot - I also go out a lot and see my friends in real life - its fab to get home at the end of a really fun event and pop up the photos for all friends to see.

    Genuine friends are actually interested in your life and love to see what you have been up to , what your kids have been up to , and how you are feeling.

    Its far easier to post something on your status than answer the same question 20 times from different friends - its a lazy gals dream :)

    OK, so my picture is a nice one of me ( relatively speaking) but then i dont put up rubbish pictures of myself or my kids in my home either - and as far as im aware neither does anyone else. You dont see many framed photos of a bad hair day with a lovely shiny red spot on the end of your nose taking pride of place on the telly ;)

    I love facebook - its found me friends from school and other clubs i used to belong to that i inadvertently lost touch with whilst getting on with moving , marriage, kids, divorce and other life changing experiences. I like the innocent games, the silly little quizzes and looking after my little plants and pet dog.

    Stop being so rude about people who dont fit your ideals - its very interolerant and quiet often wrong.

  • Comment number 23.

    Narcissists? People wanting to be liked? Not the same thing surely? Facebook is just... fun. I admit I sometimes feel like a nosy neighbour, twitching the net curtain as I keep an eye on what my friends are up to! Facebook is also a handy place to store links to news items (but difficult to link to this blog).

  • Comment number 24.

    You think thats bad? You ought to check out Gaydar ;-)

  • Comment number 25.

    My life is ace, all my friends are real friends - you guys really need to cheer up. The sun is shining, it's friday and who really cares about narcissism!


  • Comment number 26.

    Post #1 argues that the study is useless but then goes on to inadvertently add weight to the headline.

    Yes, most Facebook users are mainly narcissists - I have a login for it but do not use it much, but I see how much other people write about how they are feeling at any given time and it is purely to see some attention from a from a group tenuously called 'friends'.

  • Comment number 27.

    Wish I could read your post, but I myself am retired from psychology. And I enjoy (generally) the thoughtfulness of BBC reporting.

    But I could no longer read (without commenting) once I stumbled across your (non-spell-checked) use of "phsychology".

    In case you did not understand another comment that "there is no such thing"... please spell check. It alert you that you meant "psychology."

    Spelling isn't everything, but it *does* reflect on BBC, and makes one wonder how much general care and editing is performed in researching your article(s).

    —A BBC fan

  • Comment number 28.

    P.S. It's too bad that your software does not permit me to edit my post.
    If it did I would have changed the em-dash that I wanted to prefix my signature (above).
    Unfortunately your software did not recognize the em-dash and changed it to a "?". To clarify: I am *not* questionably a BBC fan (just a questioning fan).

  • Comment number 29.

    In my view, the problem with facebook, Gaydar, and many other such communication websites, is that half the time its subscribers live in a Walter Mitty fantasy world. No-one knows for sure *who* they are or even if the photograph and/or info posted about them is reality itself.(and we've all seen pics with the head morphed onto someone elses beautiful body, but rarely if ever the other way around)

    For those who say they have 'hundreds' of friends mebbe are the most gullible of all. They may have hundreds of cyber-entities that they receive messages from,..but friends? Real friendship is built up over a lifetime utilising direct human communication and skills, not over a few months on an anonymous weblink where 'friends' can disspear overnight from your webpage if they want too.

    Its all too sad. The touched up out of date photographs, the invented lifestyles, and remember, for those who *do* know of you both on and off the web, it must be very embarrasing for you being seen in the supermarket as you really are and not in the fantasy male escort or air hostess/staff nurse roll.

  • Comment number 30.

    Meh. So its the BBC's usual 2000s output then. Oh I bet they're attention seekers? Yeah I'm as much an attention seeker as I am a paedophile for using Facebook.

    To think Uni's waste their time on this, it's pathetic and despicable in equal measure.

  • Comment number 31.

    I use Facebook to keep in touch with my friends, some across the other side of the world. Meet new friends with common interest and find old school friends.
    Does this make me a narcissist?
    No, Doing a study where you only use 0.000001% of the subject, analysing the inaccurate result(perhaps with bias), and showing independant subjects, and then knowing your results will be a popular read across the world.
    This sounds very much like narcissistic behaviour.
    Can i have my psychology degree now?

  • Comment number 32.

    Well, duh...

  • Comment number 33.

    "The researchers analysed the content of the pages of these 130 users and then had untrained strangers view the pages and give their impression of the owner's narcissism."

    This was the point of the study, not that everyone on Facebook was a narcissist, but that ordianry people could spot them as well as trained people.

    Yes there are narcissists on Facebook, but being on Facebook does not make you a narcissist.

  • Comment number 34.

    I guess there is no need to even comment on the un-scientific process by which this report was carried out. 130 users out of 100 million... I must admit that I was surprised people agreed to publish something so fundamentally flawed. My own research (carried out primarly on me and my friends which is apparently a conclusive sample size) says that narcissism is not the main characteristic of Facebookers.
    Most people love to check up on others... See new photos, learn all the current gossip and generally spy on people! Narcissism might be the least of our short comings!

  • Comment number 35.

    Perhaps Maggie Shiels is herself a narcissist given her portrait at the top of the page portrays her favourably?


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites