Are Selfie Enthusiasts Narcissists?

Would you be surprised if I told you that guy you know who posts selfies all the damn time probably has a pretty inflated ego? I’m going to guess you wouldn’t — but just in case, we’ve got some scientific proof to back it up now: A new study from Ohio State University found that men who post a high number of selfies often have narcissistic and psychopathic tendencies. This isn’t to say that all men who post lots of selfies are narcissists, psychopaths, or both; as always, correlation is not causation. But it is sort of interesting that there’s a connection between them — it sheds a little more light on how our personalities affect our social media behaviors and vice versa. Here’s how it went down:

800 men between the ages of 18 and 40 were asked to complete an online survey that both asked about their social media habits — specifically those concerning their photo posting behavior — and assessed them for levels of narcissism, psychopathy and self-objectification. The researchers found that not only do men that post a lot of selfies scored higher on both measures of narcissism and psychopathy, but moreover, that men who scored highly in narcissism and self-objectification were more likely to edit their selfies before posting them.

According to the Ohio State University Newsroom, people with narcissistic tendencies tend to believe that they’re better than everyone else — smarter, better looking, and so on — but still maintain some insecurities. Psychopaths, on the other hand, completely lack empathy or regard for others, as well as tending towards impulsive behavior. In this respect, the findings make even more sense: As lead researcher Jesse Fox put it, “Psychopathy is characterized by impulsive behavior. They are going to snap the photos and put them online right away. They want to see themselves. They don’t want to spend time editing.”

Although the researchers note that this is the first time this particular correlation has been studied, it’s not the only time high numbers of selfies have been linked to high self-regard. Mic, for example, points to a 2014 study that examined how 400 men and women’s activities on Facebook matched up with their sense of self-worth. The one Facebook behavior that accurately predicted narcissism levels as determined by a standard narcissism questionnaire? How they rate their own profile pictures. Wrote researcher Tracy P. Alloway, “Narcissistic individuals have an exaggerated view of their attractiveness and want to share it with the world. The profile picture is the most tangible aspect of a user’s online self-presentation, making it a touchstone for narcissists seeking to draw attention to themselves.”

I’ll admit that I’m not entirely sure why the Ohio State study focused only on men; this is pure speculation on my part, but I would imagine that this connection between narcissistic and psychopathic tendencies and number of selfies would exists for all people who like to post pictures of themselves online all the time. In an effort to balance the scales a little, I’d be interested to see a study that measured the same qualities and habits in women as well — and I’m also with Jesse Singal of The Science of Us, who commented:

“I’m also curious about the psychological characteristics of people who go on, say, Facebook primarily not to post but to look at other people’s posting. Does the experience of mindlessly clicking through other people’s wonderful-looking, highly curated online lives make these lurkers more narcissistic, or does it cause them to post less because they’re worried their own content doesn’t stack up to their friends’?”

Food for thought.\ Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some selfies I need to go put up right this very minute.

(Just kidding. They’re actually Belfies, because I just cannot get over the fact that the Belfie Stick actually exists. Just kidding again. But seriously — how weird is that?!)

Images: dan-morris/Flickr; Giphy (3)