Social media, which is thought to help people connect, is actually making them more selfish and less empathic, a new study has found.
Assistant professor of psychology Dr. Tracy Alloway, from the University of North Florida, investigated the relationship among adult Facebook users, between ages 18 and 50, and found that some Facebook features are linked to selfishness and some Facebook activities may encourage empathy.
Alloway and her research team conducted a study on more than 400 individuals and asked them a range of questions about their Facebook behaviors, including the hours they spent on Facebook per day, and the number of times they updated their status. They also asked participants to rate their profile picture: were they physically attractive, cool, glamorous and fashionable.
Participants in the study, the bulk single, used Facebook an average of two hours per day and had approximately 500 friends for both males and females. The majority 89.5 percent reported they were included in their profile photo.
To assess how narcissistic they were, participants were given a standard narcissism questionnaire, where they had to choose between statements like "I like to be the center of attention" or "I prefer to blend in with the crowd."
The study revealed only one Facebook behavior accurately predicted narcissism levels: user profile picture ratings. For males, only their profile picture ratings were a predictor of narcissism. For the females, both their profile picture ratings and their status update frequency predicted their narcissism.
Alloway said that just as Narcissus gazed into the pool to admire his beauty, social networking sites, like Facebook, had become our modern-day pool.
However, Alloway noted that many other Facebook activities weren't linked to narcissism and said that this pattern suggested that while Facebook may play to be a tool for narcissists, it's more than just a reflecting pool.
The study's conclusion also found that some Facebook activities, such as chatting, encourage some aspects of empathy. Although the photo feature was linked to narcissism, the overall pattern of findings suggested that social media is primarily a tool for staying connected than for self-promotion.
The study is published in Social Networking.