Facebook is used mostly by narcissists and those with low self-esteem, says a Canadian study.

These type of people use Facebook as a self-promotional tool, says psychology researcher Soraya Mehdizadeh of York University.

Mehdizadeh, who extensively examined the online habits and personalities of 100 Facebook users aged 18 to 25 years old, found that individuals higher in narcissism and lower in self-esteem spent more time on the site and filled their pages with more self-promotional content.

“We all know people like this. They are updating their status every five minutes and the photos they post are very carefully construed,” she says.

“The question is, are these really accurate representations of the individual or are they merely a projection of who the individual wants to be?”

Mehdizadeh says she was struck by the fact that those with lower self-esteem were more apt to use this social networking tool.

As part of her research, she examined five features of participants’ Facebook pages for self-promotion: the ‘about me’ section, the main photo, the first 20 pictures on the ‘view photos of me’ section, notes, and status updates.

Describing self-promotion by Facebook users as any descriptive or visual information that attempted to persuade others about one’s own positive qualities, Mehdizadeh assessed facial expression (striking a pose or making a face) and picture enhancement (using photo editing software) in the main photo and ‘view photos of me’ sections.

Further, she examined the use of positive adjectives, self-promoting mottos, and metaphorical quotes in the ‘about me’ section. Self-promotion in the notes section could include posting results from Facebook applications including ‘my celebrity look-alikes,’ which compares a photo of the user to celebrities, or vain online quiz results.

After this, she used the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale to measure participants’ self-esteem. Narcissism was assessed by using the Narcissism Personality Inventory, according to a university release.

From the gender perspective, Mehdizadeh says she found that men displayed more self-promotional content in the ‘about me’ and notes sections, whereas women demonstrated more self-promotion in the main photo section.

“I thought this was an interesting way to apply theoretical paradigms in psychology to online self-presentation, which is still a fairly new concept,” says the Canadian researcher.

“I believe the next question to be answered is whether or not the use of such websites could be used to improve one’s self-esteem and overall sense of well-being. This sort of finding may have great implications in the lives of the socially anxious or depressed,” according to the researcher.

The study has been published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behaviour, and Social Networking.

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