You don't have to be a narcissist to enjoy taking and posting selfies to social media. There's nothing wrong with feeling super cute, or confident, or just generally wanting to put your face online, after all. But some experts say taking too many selfies is a sign of narcissism, and a new study finds that those so-called narcissists tend to like and follow other selfie-addicts, too.
The study, reported by PsyPost, was recently published in the journal Computers in Human Behavior, and was authored by Seunga Venus Jin of Sejong University and Aziz Muqaddam. Venus and her fellow researchers recruited 276 adults from Amazon’s MTurk to assess both whether or not enthusiastic selfie posting was considered narcissistic, as well as whether narcissists follow other narcissists.
Venus and Muqaddam discovered that Instagram users who frequently posted selfies and group shots were indeed perceived as more narcissistic, and that users who didn't upload incessant selfies tended not to like or follow accounts they considered as such. But an interesting find Venus and Muqaddam made through the study was that users deemed as narcissistic tended not to be turned off by other regular selfie-posters, and were more likely to look at them in a positive light than their non-selfie posting peers.
"Selfies and groupies are interpreted as more negatively narcissistic than photos taken by others and neutral photos,” Venus told PsyPost. “However, narcissistic personality similarity between the selfie poster and viewer mediates this effect. Furthermore, post source’s popularity and viewers’ need for popularity interact to moderate the causal effect of post types on perceived narcissism."
She added, "In addition, replicating grandiose/vulnerable narcissism experiments with a variety of social media platforms like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr, and Snapchat will increase generalizability."
("Grandiose" narcissism, FYI, refers to people who excessively admire their own appearance, while "vulnerable" narcissists are usually using their outward braggadocio to mask deep insecurity.)
The study does, in part, help explain why selfies are so popular on social media — if people who constantly post them get a lot of follows and likes, that good feedback could in turn encourage them to take even more selfies and group shots, and so on. It also feeds into some psychologists' belief that folks who take too many selfies do so because they base their self-worth on other people's opinions, which makes sense for Instagram users who are posting their photos for good feedback (and are getting it return).
Psychologists have linked selfie-taking to narcissism in the past, but it's important to take all that with a grain of salt. First of all, it's not necessarily a bad thing to exhibit some narcissism. In fact, sometimes narcissism can be good, as Pamela Rutledge, Ph.D., director of the Media Psychology Research Center, told Bustle last year. "The humanist movement introduced the concept of healthy narcissism, recognizing that some amount of self-love or self-esteem and a realistic appraisal of and appreciation for one’s qualities is necessary for healthy development," she said. Selfies, according to Rutledge, are sometimes a good way for us to figure out who we are, and what we like. ""You see people trying different identities, trying different ways of looking at themselves, trying to understand how other people see them, and trying to see what their 'aspirational' self looks like," she said.
In fact, rather than looking at Venus and Muqaddam's study as a dig against selfie takers, it's worth taking comfort in the fact that plenty of people like both snapping their own self-portraits and perusing others'. Selfie-takers suffered an ego blow last year, when researchers in Munich found 90 percent of people surveyed considered other people's selfies to be self-promotion, even though 77 percent of those surveyed said they took their own selfies at least once a month. If Venus and Muqaddam's research is accurate, though, there are more selfie fans out there than previously suspected.
Anyway, all this is to say that if you want to post selfies on the reg, no one will stop you. If anything, you might even get a few extra likes.