We’ve all seen it on Facebook before. Pictures of an exotic location being posted, with a caption that reads "I’m vactioning on such and such island," which sometimes is a way of asking "can you envy me a little bit please?"
Or this one: A person takes a photo of their lunch and posts it on their Facebook page as if a plate of food is a brand-new invention. "But it’s MY plate of food," they may think — which obviously makes it more special than anyone else’s, and definitely more important to share.
But the question is: do people really care about each minute detail of our daily lives? Are Facebook followers really sitting by their keyboards or constantly checking their smartphones in anticipatory pain until you update them about you, your family, or your escapades?
Probably not, and according to a university study these postings are mainly for the user to feel better about themselves, and many times all of the Facebook updates are attached to a strong level of narcissism.
Christopher Carpenter, an assistant professor of communication at Western Illinois University conducted the study entitled Narcissism on Facebook: Self-promotional and Anti-social Behavior, and he found that people who incessantly update their Facebook pages with personal details are more likely to exhibit narcissistic behaviors not only in virtual realms but in the physical world too.
Virtual & real
Meaning, if you tend to brag about the fabulous places you’re visiting or show people what a wonderful meal you’re having, you’re more than likely to talk about these things to people in your daily lives, regardless if they’re really interested or not.
Carpenter examined 292 people to gauge each person’s level of self-absorption and found a direct correlation between time spent on Facebook posting photos, updating statuses and gathering followers, to having feelings of narcissism.
The study also found these same people are more likely to seek social support rather than give it, and are surprised and even upset if people don’t comment, or “like” their photo or their posted update.
Also, using Facebook and other social networking pages like it, allows one to shape outside perceptions and kind of tailor their image to what they want it to be. It’s a way of showing your old high-school chums how wonderful your life is, while also letting them know you turned out great.
“If Facebook is to be a place where people go to repair their damaged ego and seek social support, it is vitally important to discover the potentially negative communication one might find on Facebook and the kinds of people likely to engage in them,” said Carpenter.
“Ideally, people will engage in pro-social Facebooking rather than anti-social me-booking. In general, the dark side of Facebook required more research in order to better understand Facebook’s socially beneficial and harmful aspects in order to enhance the former and curtail the later,” he said.
According to other studies like the University of Southern Mississippi’s Narcissism and Machiavellianism in Youth, narcissism is at an all-time high, not only within social networking pages, but in the real world too, and these days it’s starting with people at a very young age, researchers say.
Christopher Barry, the lead author of the study designed a self-esteem test for middle school kids and found that 80 percent of the students scored higher in 2006 than kids did in the late 80s. And the same trait was found in college students, as the study found more occurrences of narcissism compared to college kids who were tested in the 70s.
“You can look at individual scores of narcissism, you can look at data on lifetime prevalence of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, you can look at related cultural trends, and they all point to one thing, narcissism is on the rise,” said Keith Campbell of the University of Georgia psychology department, in a statement.
Blame the boomers
In another study conducted by the University of Michigan, it showed that narcissism has been on a steady incline since the Baby Boomer Generation.
The study also goes on to reveal that with each generation, things like concern of self-image, and showing a lack of compassion towards other people has been on a consistent decline.
Researchers at the mid-western school ran a 30-year study on 72 college students and found that over the course of three decades, feelings of kindness, empathy and sympathy have dropped by 34 percent.
And while these attributes were falling off from parts of our society, feelings of narcissism and self-involvement have been on the steady rise, and currently those feelings are at an all-time high, say researchers.
“College students today may be so busy worrying about themselves and their own issues that they don’t have time to spend empathizing with others, or at least perceive such time to be limited,” said the study authors.
And of course it’s not just younger folks who obsess about self-image, as all ages are now feeling the need to detail a great deal of their lives on Facebook, with the idea that others really, really care.
I mean, some might care like close friends and family, but for the most part it’s pretty safe to assume that the average person liking or commenting on our Facebook post, could be doing it out of social networking etiquette, compared to really being concerned about each detail of our lives.