Amybeth Hale – Research Goddess

Can Facebook Profiles Detect Narcissism?
September 23, 2008, 11:00 pm
Filed under: Article Reviews, Networking/Social Media, Recruiting, Research

One of my Waggener Edstrom colleagues forwarded me this article, a study conducted by the University of Georgia suggesting that online social networking sites such as Facebook might be useful tools for detecting whether someone is a narcissist.

“We found that people who are narcissistic use Facebook in a self-promoting way that can be identified by others,” said lead author Laura Buffardi, a doctoral student in psychology who co-authored the study with associate professor W. Keith Campbell….

‘The researchers found that the number of Facebook friends and wallposts that individuals have on their profile pages correlates with narcissism. Buffardi said this is consistent with how narcissists behave in the real-world, with numerous yet shallow relationships. Narcissists are also more likely to choose glamorous, self-promoting pictures for their main profile photos, she said, while others are more likely to use snapshots.’

While I can understand these findings, I have to wonder if any of the survey questions asked what the main purpose of using the social network was for the individual, because I believe this would make a big difference in the results. After reading the article, it seems to have been the assumption that all (or the majority) of the people surveyed are using the network as a personal connection tool and not for any other main purpose. There are folks who use Facebook and other social networks for business and they may have high numbers of contacts that might incorrectly classify them as narcissists, don’t you think?

Then of course, you have to look at super-connectors on networks like LinkedIn, such as Ron Bates, who is listed as having the most LinkedIn connections (over 43,000!). For folks who call themselves LIONS or who are part of groups like, is their desire to acquire connections based on business or narcissism?

Admittedly, I have a ton of connections on all of my social networks, and my purpose for using them is both personal and professional. Does that make me a narcissist? Do YOU have a lot of connections? Please share your thoughts – I think this is an interesting topic and I’d love to see some discussion.


7 Comments so far
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I think the photo comment is right on. I have a friend from college who is a total narcissist. His profiles in Facebook, Classmates and elsewhere on the Net are littered with shots of him posing in various ways. Meanwhile, my photos on Classmates and other sites are all snapshots. 🙂 There may be some truth to that – maybe not the connections, but definitely the part about photos!

Comment by jillsommer

I have lots of connections on LinkedIn too. I just Linked to who ever asked me and then Dave Mendoza did a session at my work and added my name to his list. Then it all snow balled from there. Now I think it is just silly. What is the point of being connected to people you have never met?
Quality not quantity is the deal. People could look at it as a narcissism, in my case it is a matter of joining LinkedIn early on and then it has snowballed.

Comment by Suzanne Kendrick

I would agree with some of the research in this report. I actually networked with an audit manager from Big 4 public accounting recently that I decided not to interview after seeing his profile on Facebook. The guy has half naked pics(underwear model I guess) of himself on his profile. I guess he’s very proud of his physique (nothing wrong with that), but it struck me as rather odd and a little creepy quite frankly.

Comment by Bill Ward

you will LOVE a study, then, that my research methods graduate students are doing right now. They are looking at how people self-censor their FB profiles as they get closer to going on the job market! I’ll keep you posted on it!

Comment by kaye sweetser

I think it depends on how your using the site – some of my networks I use for business – and have the business pic on them. But Facebook? I don’t let too many of business associates in on that one – keep it for friends, family and those business associates I feel comfortable with. So while my LI and Twitter networks are large, my FB hovers around 25. I wonder if anyone else feels like they need to draw that line in the sand?

Comment by Kelly Dingee

Hmmm, I am tempted to try this.

Comment by chiulink

I think FB offers people lots of temptation to do things they’d ordinarily only fantasize about. Presenting a false, glamorous self is only one: I recently saw a detailed record of a student’s shameless flirtation with a professor just to get a B instead of a C, and she clearly became the teacher’s pet despite her academic struggles. Then on Myspace, she represented herself as a manhater who would never again get married. So there is lots of pathology to investigate! Still in all, narcissism is the easiest one to look into since narcissists are most likely to open their profiles and walls to the world.

Comment by Dottie

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