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Taking multiple selfies fuels this dubious character trait

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Anna Brech
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A new study casts fresh light on the link between selfies and self-absorption 

Taking selfies is one of those guilty pleasures that few people can resist. 

The likes of Rihanna and Kylie Jenner are seasoned pros, of course, but even world leaders such as Barack Obama aren’t immune to the modern age compulsion.

And while a hefty dose of self-interest is always implied with a selfie (it’s the reason most of us reign in how often we post them), a new study has found that the act of taking a selfie actually fuels narcissism, too.

Researchers from Swansea University and Milan University studied personality changes of 74 volunteers aged 18 to 34 over a four-month period.

They also documented their use of social media on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.

The results showed that those who used social media excessively during that time, especially with selfies, displayed an average 25% increase in narcissistic traits within the study period alone.

That took many people above clinical cut-off for Narcissistic Personality Disorder, according to the measurement scale used.

“There have been suggestions of links between narcissism and the use of visual postings on social media, such as Facebook, but, until this study, it was not known if narcissists use this form of social media more, or whether using such platforms is associated with the subsequent growth in narcissism,” says lead researcher Professor Phil Reed, from Swansea University’s Department of Psychology at Swansea University

“The results of this study suggest that both occur, but show that posting selfies can increase narcissism.”

Participants in the study, published in the Open Psychology Journal, used social media for an average of three hours a day, with Facebook identified as the most popular platform. 

Those who primarily used social media for verbal postings, such as Twitter, did not show the same increase in narcissism, researchers found.

Professor Roberto Truzoli from Milan University speculates that selfies may reinforce to already narcissistic people the notion that they are at the centre of the world

“The lack of immediate ‘direct’ social censure, may offer them the opportunity to inflict aspects of their narcissistic personality, present themselves in a grandiose manner, and realise fantasies of omnipotence,” he says. 

A previous study on the topic identified three distinct categories of selfie-takers. It claimed that so-called “self-publicists” are actually the smallest proportion of selfie-takers on social media; but they get the most attention.

The majority of people post selfies to record major events or to engage their loved ones in conversation, the report found. 

Images: Getty, Instagram

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Anna Brech

Anna Brech is a freelance journalist and former editor for stylist.co.uk. Her six-year stint on the site saw her develop a vociferous appetite for live Analytics, feminist opinion and good-quality gin in roughly equal measure. She enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content but has a soft spot for books and escapist travel content.

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