Are we all becoming obsessively narcissistic or is it related more positively to self-esteem? Cogent Psychology

Recent research published in Cogent Psychology seeks to investigate the ever-increasing phenomenon of ‘selfie’ sharing on social media sites. The findings suggest that our rapidly increasing selfie sharing habit, which crucially includes self-portrait photographs, either alone or with a group, has complex psychological underpinnings.


Previous research within academia has concluded that selfie posting is related to online self-presentation. In this research, titled Narcissism and self-esteem: Different motivations for selfie posting behaviors, authors Roberta Biolcati and Stefano Passini examine the impact of two widely acknowledged personality traits on self-presentation: narcissism and self-esteem. They consider the mediating effects of four common selfie posting motives: communication, attention-seeking, archiving and entertainment. 


The results from 237 participants demonstrate that differing levels of self-esteem influence individual’s motivations for posting selfies, particularly regarding the type of post, whether as an individual, with a partner or in a group. It also clearly shows that the respective incentives of individuals with high self-esteem, and those of narcissists are often diametrically opposed. Narcissistic individuals tend to post ‘selfies’ for attention, to escape boredom and most often prefer to post self only images.  Furthermore, they are inclined to attach great significance to the number of ‘likes’ received. Conversely, the above motivations tend to discourage high self-esteem individuals from posting self only images. Their preference is to post selfies with partners or groups, motivated more by communication, archiving and entertainment, and consequently, unlike their narcissistic counterparts they rarely post self only images. Equally, when narcissists do post group or partner selfies their intention is usually to use interpersonal relationships to affirm or bolster their own inflated self-image.


For the narcissist, posting selfies, whether self, partner or group, is usually in the interest of self-promotion, whereas for the high esteem individual it is indicative of confidence and self-assurance. This reinforces the view that a degree of happiness and satisfaction is demonstrated by high esteem individuals in their relationships. This is particularly interesting considering previous studies, which show similarities between narcissistic and high esteem personalities in that both share a high self-opinion. This study reveals further evidence that in the case of high self-esteem individuals the self-regard is of a healthier nature. This research contributes significantly to previous studies of behaviours on social media, not least in revealing the complex psychological underpinnings behind our increasing obsession with photo-sharing. 


The article, Narcissism and self-esteem: Different motivations for selfie posting behaviors published in the open access journal Cogent Psychology, is free to read and download via this permanent link.

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