Scientists have proven that narcissists tend to congregate on Instagram

Scientists have proven that narcissists tend to congregate on Instagram

Social media is often a place where the most arrogant and opinionated people thrive, while the humbler folk are drowned out by comparison. Now that technology allows us to spy on our friends and acquaintances at all times, it's hard to resist the urge to project an image of wealth, success and happiness around the clock. How do we look in our new profile picture? Do our stories make it look like we had a varied and exciting weekend? Is this status going to make me appear witty and urbane? Yup: it's not hard to see why the baby boomers like to criticise social media as a playground for the self-obsessed. We're all guilty of this kind of narcissism from time to time. But nowhere is this unhealthy attitude towards high-class living and gaudy status symbols more apparent than on Instagram.

Yes, Instagram is all very good and useful. Without some of its filters, there's no way I'd be able to make my ugly face even halfway presentable. But it also seems to be the best medium for gauche and tacky show-offery. If you don't believe me, then just try scrolling through your Instagram feed on a damp and drizzly Tuesday morning in the office. After 10 minutes of staring at glamorous models on beaches, hunks posing in slick new convertibles, and celebrities attending glitzy award shows, you'll probably feel a sudden urge to take a nice hot bath while cuddling your electric toaster. I've always suspected that Instagram attracts chronic egomaniacs and apparently, science has now proven me right.

Yes, Instagram is the perfect place for narcissistic individuals to prosper: where they're actively encouraged to promote a shamelessly self-aggrandising image of themselves and have a platform on which they can boast to others and demand attention from the public at large. Not only this, but new scientific research actually shows that they intuitively use Instagram to find other, like-minded narcissists, in order to network with them. Pretty soon the entire app is going to be even more infested with vanity than it already is.

The study was published in scientific journal Computers in Human Behavior, and entitled 'Narcissism 2.0! Would narcissists follow fellow narcissists on Instagram? The mediating effects of narcissists personality similarity and envy, and the moderating effects of popularity'. It used the Instagram app to determine whether people with narcissistic personality traits are more tolerant of the narcissistic behaviour displayed by other people.

The two-part study involved 276 adult participants and asked the recruits how many selfies they took on average and to what extent they agreed with statements like: "I really like to be the centre of attention," and "I like to look at my body." The Instagram users who had posted the most selfies and talked themselves up showed higher scores, indicating narcissistic traits. The same participants were later asked to assess how narcissistic they thought other Instagram users were. They were asked questions like: "she likes to show off her body" and "he likes to be the centre of attention," and were told to rate their fellow Instagram users based on how arrogant and self-confident they appeared. The participants who were more self-aggrandising displayed a positive attitude toward selfies posted by other narcissists, as well as more of a willingness to follow fellow narcissists on Instagram.

In the paper's abstract, the study's author, Seunga Venus Jin of Sejong University, writes: "Posting selfies is a popular activity that exemplifies self-promotion. Narcissism is a positive indicator of willingness to take selfies and frequency of posting selfies. Why do people not only post selfies but also ‘like’ and ‘follow’ others who post selfies? ... Selfies and groupies are interpreted as more negatively narcissistic than photos taken by other and neutral photos. Perceived similarity between the Instagram post source and the viewer mediates the causal effects of Instagram post types on attitude toward taking selfies, intention to take selfies, and intention to follow the Instagram post source."

"The post source's popularity and viewers' need for popularity interact to moderate the causal effect of post types on perceived narcissism," she added. "Envy mediates the causal effects of the post source's popularity on attitude toward taking selfies, intention to take selfies, and intention to follow the post source ... In addition, replicating grandiose/vulnerable narcissism experiments with a variety of social media platforms like Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr, and Snapchat will increase generalisability. This study discovered the effects of narcissism and popularity on a wide range of psychological and behavioural outcomes. This study offers the basis for future explanations of selfies and narcissism, by adding empirical evidence to the narcissism tolerance hypothesis."

As outlined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), there are eight main traits which make up a narcissistic personality type. The longer list comprises: an exaggerated sense of self-importance, fantasies of great success, power, attractiveness or intelligence, a belief in their unique specialness which can only be understood by other special people, a high sense of entitlement, a craving for constant attention, proneness to boredom, extreme envy, arrogance and lack of empathy.

Despite these rather damning findings, it seems unlikely that Instagram's popularity will wane anytime soon. As of September 2017, the service boasts approximately 800 million users, who have uploaded an estimated 45 billion photos. Furthermore, in April 2012, Instagram was acquired by Facebook at a price of one billion dollars and has been called "one of the most influential social networks in the world." So I have a funny feeling that these humungous bigheads aren't going to change their ways anytime soon. But it's not like Instagram is the only essential app out there. Check out the 10 other inventions that millennials (apparently) can't live without.