As I see my younger relatives grow up using social media, it does raise a few red flags. Of course, even if I don’t fully understand teenagers glued to their phones and taking selfies, social media is a fact of life these days. Some psychologists have argued that an obsession with social media is related to a rise in narcissism. And data gathered on the subject has confirmed a sharp increase in narcissism in the past decade. This corresponds directly with increased use of social media, and although there isn’t any data yet that conclusively links the two, it’s not too much of a stretch.
Although young adults go through a narcissistic period in their lives, meant to establish their own identity and break away from their caregivers, a recent study in young teens showed a strong correlation between heavy Facebook use and some of the negative traits associated with narcissism. A spike in social media has led to a growing body of research examining its positive and negative effects on teens. Keeping in touch with people far away is great, but studies reveal that the bad outweighs the good. California State University professor Larry Rosen has done extensive research that links excessive Facebook use to bad grades, poor health and antisocial personality disorders (including narcissism). Nonetheless, various psychological and social skills can be enhanced by social media; Rosen has pointed out that active Facebook users show stronger empathy towards their peers both on- and offline. It also serves as a great way for those with eccentric interests who would traditionally be considered outcasts to more easily connect with likeminded people.
The positive effects of social media are correlated strongly with an individual’s self-perception. Yet there’s a fine line between high self esteem and narcissism. At the same time, you can’t help but wonder if social media is to blame, or if it simply makes it easier to point out narcissists. Some researchers have argued that these new social media behaviors aren’t a sign of narcissism, but rather the new norm, and require psychologists to redefine narcissism.
Even though the link between social media and narcissism isn’t conclusively established, heavy use of social media is a clear indicator of narcissism. It’s hardly the only factor contributing to narcissism; the cultural promotion of self-esteem and a focus on wealth and physical attractiveness play a large part as well. Parents need to help their children create a healthy balance between online life and reality; strictly banning social media could make your children social outcasts, yet also not having any boundaries could prove problematic.
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