Narcissists don't just love their selfies, they love yours too

A new study found that narcissistic people weren't just more likely to post their selfies, but had a higher opinion of other people's selfies as well. Lead author Venus Jin says this could suggest a higher social acceptance of narcissism online.
A man takes a selfie before swimming in the frozen Hou Hai lake in Beijing. (NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images)

A new study from Sejong University in Seoul, South Korea found that narcissistic people tend to post more selfies on Instagram. It's not an especially surprising finding, considering that part of what characterizes narcissism is an obsession with one's own appearance. But the study had a more surprising finding: that those same narcissists also like other people's selfies more than people who aren't narcissists do.

Venus Jin is a professor at Sejong University in Seoul, South Korea. (Sejong University)
The study specifically looked at grandiose narcissism, which includes being excessively interested in how physically attractive you are

This finding is counterintuitive because in their offline lives, people with grandiose narcissism tend not to want other people to be the centre of attention. "The key difference is the differences between the online environments and the offline environments," Venus Jin, a professor at Sejong University and the lead author of the study, said. "On Instagram everyone can be popular and it does not negatively impact their actual status."


While Instagram and other social media platforms allow users to express narcissistic tendencies, Venus argues that social media can also can make people more narcissistic. "Digitally enhancing photos and other filters that make people look more attractive than they actually are can encourage narcissistic behaviour. So it's a two way phenomenon."

The online environment also lacks the social pressure to suppress narcissistic behaviour. "Narcissism has traditionally been regarded as a bad thing," Venus said, "but in social media environments people are more tolerant of narcissistic behaviour of others."

That something many people use every day could make a mental disorder more prevalent is disturbing. But for Venus it isn't as awful as it initially seems. "Narcissism is not necessarily bad," Venus said. "It gives a person an opportunity to increase their self-esteem, and also fulfills their need to belong, and need for popularity."