1. Study suggests economic status and reactions to issues may be inferred from position in social networks

    May 25, 2017 by Ashley

    From the City College of New York press release:

    New big-data analytics by a City College of New York-led team suggests that both an individual’s economic status and how they are likely to react to issues and policies can be inferred by their position in social networks. The study could be useful in maximizing the effects of large-scale economic stimulus policies.

    A team led by City College physicist Hern´an A. Makse was legally granted access to two massive big datasets: all the phone calls of the entire population of Mexico for three months and the banking information of a subset of people. All the data, approximately 110 million phone calls and 500,000 bank clients, was anonymous with no names.

    “It is commonly believed that patterns of social ties affect individuals’ economic status, said Makse, whose research interest includes the theoretical understanding of complexity. “We analyzed these two large-scale sources — the telecommunications and financial data of a whole country’s population. Our results showed that an individual’s location, measured as the optimal collective influence to the structural integrity of the social network, is highly correlated with personal economic status.”

    The social network patterns of influence observed mimicked the patterns of economic inequality. For pragmatic use and validation, Makse and his colleagues carried out a marketing campaign that showed a three-fold increase in response rate by targeting individuals identified by their social network metrics as compared to random targeting.


  2. Live interactions with robots increase their perceived human likeness

    May 22, 2017 by Ashley

    From the International Communication Association press release:

    Most human interactions with robots come from behind a screen. Whether it’s fiction or a real-life interaction, rarely are we put face to face with a robot. This poses a significant barrier when we look towards a future where robots will be part of our everyday lives. How do we break down this barrier? A recent study by researchers at the University of Koblenz-Landau, University of Wurzburg, and Arts Electronica Futurelab, found that people who watched live interactions with a robot were more likely to consider the robot to have more human-like qualities.

    Constanze Schreiner (University of Koblenz-Landau), Martina Mara (Ars Electronica Futuerlab), and Markus Appel (University of Wurzburg) will present their findings at the 67th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association in San Diego, CA. Using a Roboy robot, participants observed one of three experimental human robot interactons (HRI); either in real life, in virtual reality (VR) on a 3D screen, or on a 2D screen. The scripted HRI between Roboy and the human technician was 4:25 minutes long. During that time, participants saw Roboy assisting the human in organizing appointments, conducting web searches and finding a birthday present for his mom.

    The data analyzed revealed that observing a live interaction or alternatively encountering the robot in a VR lead to more perceived realness. Furthermore, the kind of presentation influenced perceived human-likeness. Participants who observed a real HRI reported the highest perceived human-likeness. Particularly interesting is that participants who were introduced to Roboy in VR perceived the robot as less human-like than participants who watched a live HRI, whereas these two groups did not differentiate in regard of perceived realness.

    Usually, experimental studies interested in HRI and participants’ evaluations of humanoid service robots — due to limited resources — need to fall back on video stimuli. This is the first study using participants’ evaluations of a humanoid service robot when observed either on a 2D video, in 3D virtual reality, or in real life.

    “Many people will have their first encounter with a service robot over the next decade. Service robots are designed to communicate with humans in humanlike ways and assist them in various aspects of their daily routine. Potential areas of application range from hospitals and nursing homes to hotels and the users’ households,” said Schreiner. “To date, however, most people still only know such robots from the Internet or TV and are still skeptical about the idea of sharing their personal lives with robots, especially when it comes to machines of highly human-like appearance.”

    “When R2-D2 Hops off the Screen: A Service Robot Encountered in Real Life Appears More Real and Humanlike Than on Video or in VR,” by Constanze Schreiner, Martina Mara, and Markus Appel; to be presented at the 67th Annual International Communication Association Conference, San Diego, CA, 25-29 May 2017.


  3. International study suggests social media behaviour is influenced by culture

    May 18, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Vaasa press release:

    Even though we think ourselves as global citizens, we still differ in terms of how we behave online and what motivates our behavior online. A new doctoral study in the field of international marketing by Agnieszka Chwialkowska from the University of Vaasa, Finland, reveals that the cultural values and practices are still very much influencing the way consumers use different social media platforms when engaging with their favourite companies.

    Chwialkowska has compared social media sharing, liking, commenting and tagging in Finland, Poland and United States.

    “The consumers in the United States use company social media content to express themselves and enhance their image, whereas Finnish and Polish customers engage with company content that helps them keep in touch with their friends, and thus mainly share content that will benefit their connections,” says Agnieszka Chwialkowska.

    The consumers in Finland, Poland and the United States differed also in their engagement methods. While Finns and Poles were merely just clicking “like” and “share,” the U.S. respondents were also tagging and commenting. All in all, the U.S. consumers were engaging with company social media content more frequently than respondents in the other two countries.

    The age does not matter

    Chwialkowska studied both young generation of social media users and working professionals and debunked the myth that older consumers use social media differently. Her research shows that while users above 30 years old use social media less frequently, spent less time there, and have generally less online connections than young adolescents, the key motivations underlying their online behaviors remain the same.

    Chwialkowska’s research offers many implications for companies present on social media. Knowing users’ motivations helps them better understand their responses to marketing communication and design the content that consumers will be willing to share with their online friends.


  4. How Pokémon GO can help students build stronger communication skills

    May 17, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Iowa State University press release:

    Technology continues to change the way students learn and engage with their peers, parents and community. That is why Emily Howell, an assistant professor in Iowa State University’s School of Education, is working with teachers to develop new ways to incorporate digital tools in the classroom, including playing games such as Pokémon GO.

    The focus of Howell’s work is two-fold — to give students equitable access to technology and help them build multimodal communication skills. That means not only using technology to consume information or replace traditional classroom tools, but experimenting with new forms of communication, she said. Instead of having students read a book on a tablet or use the computer to type an assignment, they need to learn how to create and upload videos or build graphics and maps to convey their message.

    Howell’s suggestion of having students play Pokémon GO to build these skills may seem a bit unconventional. However, after playing the smartphone game with her own children, she saw how it could help students with writing and research in ways that align with Common Core standards. Howell says engaging students through Pokémon GO, a game many are already playing outside the classroom, also generates interest and connects students to their work.

    “It is important to give students authentic choices that really have meaning in their lives,” Howell said. “We need to encourage them to develop questions, research the answers and then share that information in writing.”

    For example, a common assignment is to have elementary students write an essay on how to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich — a task students can easily explain, but not a genuine question many have, Howell said. Pokémon GO, like many video games, provides players with limited information or what Howell describes as “just in time learning.” As a result, players have questions about how to use certain tools or advance to the next level.

    Playing the game with her own children, Howell watched their enthusiasm in researching and finding the answers to these questions. They were even more excited to share their knowledge with her and their grandmother, who was also playing the game. In a paper published in the journal The Reading Teacher, Howell explains how teachers can have students identify questions about Pokémon GO, find the answers and present their findings in different formats.

    Using different modes of communication

    Pokémon GO incorporates different modes of communication — gestures, visuals and directions — which makes it a good fit for the classroom, Howell said. Players see the character on their phone, the character is integrated into a map and the player controls catching the character. Pokémon GO illustrates the need to understand multimodal text, which reflects how we communicate with others, she said.

    “We don’t just send a text or email; we have a live chat or video conferences. Anytime teachers can find something that students are already doing, and comes in multimodal form, they can harness that interest and teach students about the tool’s potential,” Howell said.

    Even more than conventional tools such as a paper and pen, teachers must provide a framework for using digital tools. Howell says students need to understand conventional literacy skills, but also learn how to upload files or design elements on a page that are not in a linear progression.

    “It’s not just giving students the technology and letting them play, it’s really guiding that interaction so they can express meaning,” Howell said.

    Providing a safe, online forum

    To make the assignment even more authentic, Howell suggests giving students an outlet to share their work with people outside of the classroom. Many school districts create secure, online platforms where students can share work with family and friends and receive feedback. Knowing that others will view their work helps students develop writing styles for different audiences, not just their teacher, Howell said.

    “It makes the assignment more authentic and helps with motivation and understanding the purpose for writing,” she said. “It has academic as well as social benefits.”

    Howell received a grant from the Center for Educational Transformation at the University of Northern Iowa to help elementary teachers in Iowa integrate technology into their writing lessons. The goal is to engage students in writing so that they are using digital tools to create content, rather than strictly consume information.


  5. How technology use affects at-risk adolescents

    May 16, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Duke University press release:

    More use of technology is linked to later increases in attention, behavior and self-regulation problems for adolescents already at risk for mental health issues, a new study from Duke University finds.

    “Also, on days at-risk adolescents use technology more, they experience more conduct problems and higher ADHD symptoms compared to days they use technology less,” said Madeleine J. George, a Duke Ph.D. candidate and the lead author of the study.

    However, the study also found that using technology was linked to some positive outcomes: On days when adolescents spent more time using digital technologies they were less likely to report symptoms of depression and anxiety.

    The research, published May 3 in a special issue of Child Development, looks at associations between adolescents’ mental health symptoms and how much time they spent each day texting, using social media and using the Internet.

    For the study, 151 young adolescents completed surveys on smartphones about their daily digital technology use. They were surveyed three times a day for a month and were assessed for mental health symptoms 18 months later. The youth participating were between 11 and 15 years old, were of a lower socioeconomic status and were at a heightened risk for mental health problems.

    The adolescents spent an average of 2.3 hours a day using digital technologies. More than an hour of that time was spent texting, with the adolescents sending an average of 41 texts a day.

    The researchers found that on days when adolescents used their devices more — both when they exceeded their own normal use and when they exceeded average use by their peers — they were more likely to experience conduct problems such as lying, fighting and other behavioral problems.

    In addition, on days when adolescents used digital devices more, they had difficulty paying attention and exhibited attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder symptoms.

    The study also found that young adolescents who spent more time online experienced increases in conduct problems and problems with self-regulation — the ability to control one’s behavior and emotions — 18 months later.

    It’s unclear whether high levels of technology use were simply a marker of elevated same-day mental health symptoms or if the use of technology exacerbated existing symptoms, said Candice Odgers, the senior author of the study and a professor in Duke’s Sanford School of Public Policy.

    On the positive side, the researchers found evidence that digital technology use may be helpful to adolescents experiencing depression and anxiety. More time spent texting was associated with fewer same-day symptoms of depression and anxiety.

    “This finding makes sense when you think about how kids are commonly using devices to connect with their peers and social networks,” said Odgers, a faculty fellow at the Duke Center for Child and Family Policy.

    The findings suggest contemporary youth may be using digital technology to connect in positive ways versus isolating themselves, the authors said. In the past, some research found that teenagers using digital technology were socially isolated. But at that time, only a small minority of youth were frequently online.

    Odgers noted that the adolescents in the study were already at an increased risk for mental health problems regardless of digital device use. It’s therefore unclear if the findings would apply to all adolescents. Because this was a correlational study, it is possible factors other than technology use could have caused the increase in mental health problems.

    As rates of adolescent technology use continue to climb, more work is needed to investigate its effects, the researchers say. Odgers and George are now conducting a large study of more than 2,000 N.C. adolescents to determine how and why high digital device use predicts future problems among some adolescents. The study also looks at whether being constantly connected during adolescence could provide opportunities to improve mental health.


  6. How do toddlers learn best from touchscreens?

    May 14, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Frontiers press release:

    Educational apps for kids can be valuable learning tools, but there’s still a lot left to understand about how to best design them, shows a report in Frontiers in Psychology.

    “Our experiments are a reminder that just because touchscreens allow for physical interaction, it doesn’t mean that it’s always beneficial,” says Dr. Colleen Russo-Johnson, lead author of the study and who completed this work as a graduate student at Vanderbilt University.

    Smartphones and tablets have become so pervasive that, even in lower-income households, 90% of American children have used a touchscreen by the age of 2. Eighty percent of educational apps in the iTunes store are designed for children — especially toddlers and preschoolers. But recent research has shown that sometimes all those chimes and animations hinder learning, prompting the question, how well do we understand what it takes to make a truly beneficial learning app?

    “Children interact with touch screens and the embedded media content in vastly different ways and this impacts their ability to learn from the content,” says Russo-Johnson. “Our experiment focused on how children interacted with touchscreen devices — on a more basic level — by stripping away fancy design features that vary from app to app and that are not always beneficial.”

    Using a custom-made, streamlined learning app, Russo-Johnson and her colleagues showed that children as young as 2 could use the app to learn new words such as the fictional names of a variety of newly-introduced toys (designed specifically for the study). Unsurprisingly, slightly older children (age 4 to 5) were able to learn more than the younger ones (age 2 to 3) and they were also able to follow directions better — such as only tapping when instructed to do so.

    The researchers went on to show that the excessive tapping by younger children seemed to go hand-in-hand with lower scores of a trait called self-regulation. As in this study, self-regulation is commonly measured by seeing how long children can keep themselves from eating a cracker that is placed in front of them — after they’ve been told to wait until they hear a signal that it’s ok to eat the cracker.

    To complement this first study (which included 77 children), Russo-Johnson and her colleagues designed a second app to see which interactions — tapping, dragging, or simply watching — were better for learning new words.

    Somewhat surprisingly, across this next group of 170 2- to 4-year olds, no single type of interaction proved to consistently be the best. But there were differences depending on age, gender, and the extent of prior exposure to touchscreens at home. Boys appeared to benefit more from watching, whereas dragging seemed best for girls and children with the most touchscreen experience.

    These results complement the growing body of research on identifying effective interactive features, as well as providing insight into how apps might be tailored to fit the learning needs of different children.

    “I hope that this research will inform academics and app developers alike,” says Russo-Johnson. “Educational app developers should be mindful of utilizing interactivity in meaningful ways that don’t distract from the intended educational benefits, and, when possible, allow for customization so parents and educators can determine the best settings for their children.”


  7. Handheld screen time linked with speech delays in young children

    May 11, 2017 by Ashley

    From the American Academy of Pediatrics press release:

    As the number of smart phones, tablets, electronic games and other handheld screens in U.S. homes continues to grow, some children begin using these devices before beginning to talk. New research being presented at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting suggests these children may be at higher risk for speech delays.

    Researchers will present the abstract, “Is handheld screen time use associated with language delay in infants?” on Saturday, May 6 at the Moscone West Convention Center in San Francisco. The study included 894 children between ages 6 months and 2 years participating in TARGet Kids!, a practice-based research network in Toronto between 2011 and 2015.

    By their 18-month check-ups, 20 percent of the children had daily average handheld device use of 28 minutes, according to their parents. Based on a screening tool for language delay, researchers found that the more handheld screen time a child’s parent reported, the more likely the child was to have delays in expressive speech. For each 30-minute increase in handheld screen time, researchers found a 49 percent increased risk of expressive speech delay. There was no apparent link between handheld device screen time and other communications delays, such as social interactions, body language or gestures.

    “Handheld devices are everywhere these days,” said Dr. Catherine Birken, MD, MSc, FRCPC, the study’s principal investigator and a staff pediatrician and scientist at The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids). “While new pediatric guidelines suggest limiting screen time for babies and toddlers, we believe that the use of smartphones and tablets with young children has become quite common. This is the first study to report an association between handheld screen time and increased risk of expressive language delay.”

    Dr. Birken said the results support a recent policy recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics to discourage any type of screen media in children younger than 18 months. More research is needed, she said, to understand the type and contents of screen activities infants are engaging in to further explore mechanisms behind the apparent link between handheld screen time and speech delay, such as time spent together with parents on handheld devices, and to understand the impact on in-depth and longer-term communication outcomes in early childhood.


  8. Study suggests game features can be used to enhance motivation

    April 29, 2017 by Ashley

    From the Penn State press release:

    Using game features in non-game contexts, computers can learn to build personalized mental- and physical-therapy programs that enhance individual motivation, according to Penn State engineers.

    “We want to understand the human and team behaviors that motivate learning to ultimately develop personalized methods of learning instead of the one-size-fits-all approach that is often taken,” said Conrad Tucker, assistant professor of engineering design technology and professional programs.

    They seek to use machine learning to train computers to develop personalized mental or physical therapy regimens — for example, to overcome anxiety or recover from a shoulder injury — so many individuals can each use a tailor-made program.

    “Using people to individually evaluate others is not efficient or sustainable in time or human resources and does not scale up well to large numbers of people,” said Tucker. “We need to train computers to read individual people. Gamification explores the idea that different people are motivated by different things.”

    To begin creating computer models for therapy programs, the researchers tested how to most effectively make the completion of a physical task into a gamified application by incorporating game features like scoring, avatars, challenges and competition.

    “We’re exploring here how gamification could be applied to health and wellness by focusing on physically interactive gamified applications,” said Christian Lopez, graduate student in industrial and manufacturing engineering, who helped conduct the tests using a virtual-reality game environment.

    In the virtual-reality tests, researchers asked participants to physically avoid obstacles as they moved through a virtual environment. The game system recorded their actual body positions using motion sensors and then mirrored their movements with an avatar in virtual reality.

    Participants had to bend, crouch, raise their arms, and jump to avoid obstacles. The participant successfully avoided a virtual obstacle if no part of their avatar touched the obstacle. If they made contact, the researchers rated the severity of the mistake by how much of the avatar touched the obstacle.

    In one of the application designs, participants could earn more points by moving to collect virtual coins, which sometimes made them hit an obstacle.

    “As task complexity increases, participants need more motivation to achieve the same level of results,” said Lopez. “No matter how engaging a particular feature is, it needs to move the participant towards completing the objective rather than backtracking or wasting time on a tangential task. Adding more features doesn’t necessarily enhance performance.”

    Tucker and Lopez created a predictive algorithm — a mathematical formula to forecast the outcome of an event — that rates the potential usefulness of a game feature. They then tested how well each game feature motivated participants when completing the virtual-reality tasks. They compared their test results to the algorithm’s predictions as a proof of concept and found that the formula correctly anticipated which game features best motivated people in the physically interactive tasks.

    The researchers found that gamified applications with a scoring system, the ability to select an avatar, and in-game rewards led to significantly fewer mistakes and higher performance than those with a win-or-lose system, randomized gaming backgrounds and performance-based awards.

    Sixty-eight participants tested two designs that differed only by the features used to complete the same set of tasks. Tucker and Lopez published their results in Computers in Human Behavior.

    The researchers chose the tested game features from the top-ranked games in the Google Play app store, taking advantage of the features that make the games binge-worthy and re-playable, and then narrowed the selection based on available technology.

    Their algorithm next ranked game features by how easily designers could implement them, the physical complexity of using the feature, and the impact of the feature on participant motivation and ability to complete the task. If a game feature is too technologically difficult to incorporate into the game, too physically complex, does not offer enough incentive for added effort or works against the end goal of the game, then the feature has low potential usefulness.

    The researchers would also like to use these results to boost workplace performance and personalize virtual-reality classrooms for online education.

    “Game culture has already explored and mastered the psychological aspects of games that make them engaging and motivating,” said Tucker. “We want to leverage that knowledge towards the goal of individualized optimization of workplace performance.”

    To do this, Tucker and Lopez next want to connect performance with mental state during these gamified physical tasks. Heart rate, electroencephalogram signals and facial expressions will be used as proxies for mood and mental state while completing tasks to connect mood with game features that affect motivation.


  9. Study suggests Facebook can function as safety net for the bereaved

    by Ashley

    From the Northeastern University press release:

     Neuroscientists have long noted that if certain brain cells are destroyed by, say, a stroke, new circuits may be laid in another location to compensate, essentially rewiring the brain. Northeastern’s William R. Hobbs, an expert in computational social science, wanted to know if social networks responded similarly after the death of a close mutual friend.

    In new research published Monday in the journal Nature Human Behavior, Hobbs found that they did, thereby representing a paradigm of social network resilience.

    Hobbs, who led the study, collaborated with Facebook data scientist Moira Burke. The researchers found that close friends of the deceased immediately increased their interactions with one another by 30 percent, peaking in volume. The interactions faded a bit in the following months and ultimately stabilized at the same volume of interaction as before the death, even two years after the loss. This insight into how social networks adapt to significant losses could lead to new ways to help people with the grieving process, ensuring that their networks are able to recover rather than collapse during these difficult times.

    “Most people don’t have very many friends, so when we lose one, that leaves a hole in our networks as well as in our lives,” says Hobbs, a postdoctoral research fellow in the lab of David Lazer, Distinguished Professor of Political Science and Computer and Information Science. He wondered: Would a social network unravel with a central member gone? If it recovered, how might it heal?

    “We expected to see a spike in interactions among close friends immediately after the loss, corresponding with the acute grieving period,” says Hobbs. “What surprised us was that the stronger ties continued for years. People made up for the loss of interacting with the friend who had died by increasing interactions with one another.”

    Hobbs came to the study from a crisis of his own. After college, he lived and worked in China studying local governments. But when he entered graduate school at the University of California, San Diego, his father was dying. “So I switched to American politics, then to studying chronic illnesses, and then moving into the effect of deaths on others,” he says.

    That switch led to this first large-scale investigation of recovery and resilience after a death in social networks.

    It has the potential to reveal a great deal about ourselves, says Lazer, who is also a core faculty member in the Network Science Institute at Northeastern. “Death is a tear in the fabric of the social network that binds us together,” he says. “This research provides insight into how our networks heal from this tear over time, and points to the ways that our digital traces can offer important clues into how we help each other through the grieving process.”

    Using sophisticated data counters and computer analysis, the researchers compared monthly interactions — wall posts, comments, and photo tags — of approximately 15,000 Facebook networks that had experienced the death of a friend with monthly interactions of approximately 30,000 similar Facebook networks that had not.

    The first group comprised more than 770,000 people, the latter more than 2 million. They learned about the deaths from California state vital records, and characterized “close friends” as those who had interacted with the person who died before the study began. To maintain the users’ privacy, the data was aggregated and “de-identified” — that is, all elements that associated the data with the individual were removed.

    “The response was different from what other researchers have found regarding natural disasters or other kinds of trauma,” says Hobbs. “There you see a spike in communications but that disappears quickly afterward.”

    In particular, the researchers found that networks comprising young adults, ages 18 to 24, showed the strongest recovery. They were not only more likely to recover than others, their interaction levels also stayed elevated — higher than before the loss. Networks experiencing suicides, on the other hand, showed the least amount of recovery. Further research is necessary to understand why, says Hobbs.

    “We didn’t study the subjective experience of loss, or how people feel,” cautions Hobbs. “We looked at recovery only in terms of connectivity. We also can’t say for certain whether the results translate into closer friendships offline.” What they do show is that online social networks appear to function as a safety net. “They do so quickly, and the effect persists,” he says. “There are so few studies on the effect of the death of a friend on a network. This is a big step forward.”


  10. Narcissism and social networking

    April 23, 2017 by Ashley

    From the University of Würzburg press release:

    Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have become an important part of the lives of many people worldwide. Around two billion users were active on Facebook at the end of 2016; 500 million regularly post photos on Instagram and more than 300 million communicate via Twitter.

    Various studies conducted over the past years have investigated to what extent the use of social media is associated with narcissistic tendencies — with contradictory results. Some studies supported a positive relationship between the use of Facebook, Twitter and the likes, whereas others confirmed only weak or even negative effects.

    Most comprehensive meta-analysis so far

    Fresh findings are now presented by scientists from the Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories Bamberg and the University of Würzburg. They were able to show that there is a weak to moderate link between a certain form of narcissism and social media activity. When taking a differentiated look at specific forms of behaviour or at the participants’ cultural background, the effect is even pronounced in some cases.

    The study is managed by Professor Markus Appel, who holds the Chair of Media Communication at the University of Würzburg, and Dr. Timo Gnambs, head of the Educational Measurement section at the Leibniz Institute for Educational Trajectories, Bamberg. For their meta-analysis, the scientists summarized the results of 57 studies comprising more than 25,000 participants in total. They have now published their findings in the Journal of Personality.

    Forms of narcissism

    They think of themselves as being exceptionally talented, remarkable and successful. They love to present themselves to other people and seek approval from them: This is how psychologists describe the typical behaviour of people commonly referred to as narcissists. “Accordingly, social networks such as Facebook are believed to be an ideal platform for these people,” says Markus Appel.

    The network gives them easy access to a large audience and allows them to selectively post information for the purpose of self-promotion. Moreover, they can meticulously cultivate their image. Therefore, researchers have suspected social networking sites to be an ideal breeding ground for narcissists from early on.

    Three hypotheses

    The recently published meta-analysis shows that the situation does not seem to be as bad as feared. The scientists examined the truth behind three hypotheses. Firstly, the assumption that grandiose narcissists frequent social networking sites more often than representatives of another form of narcissism, the “vulnerable narcissists.” Vulnerable narcissism is associated with insecurity, fragile self-esteem, and social withdrawal.

    Secondly, they assumed that the link between narcissism and the number of friends and certain self-promoting activities is much more pronounced compared to other activities possible on social networking sites.

    Thirdly, the researchers hypothesized that the link between narcissism and the social networking behaviour is subject to cultural influences. In collectivistic cultures where the focus is on the community rather than the individual or where rigid roles prevail, social media give narcissists the opportunity to escape from prevalent constraints and present themselves in a way that would be impossible in public.

    The results

    The meta-analysis of the 57 studies did in fact confirm the scientists’ assumptions. Grandiose narcissists are encountered more frequently in social networks than vulnerable narcissists. Moreover, a link has been found between the number of friends a person has and how many photos they upload and the prevalence of traits associated with narcissism. The gender and age of users is not relevant in this respect. Typical narcissists spend more time in social networks than average users and they exhibit specific behavioural patterns.

    A mixed result was found for the influence of the cultural background on the usage behaviour. “In countries where distinct social hierarchies and unequal power division are generally more accepted such as India or Malaysia, there is a stronger correlation between narcissism and the behaviour in social media than in countries like Austria or the USA,” says Markus Appel.

    However, the analysis of the data from 16 countries on four continents does not show a comparable influence of the “individualism” factor.

    Generation Me

    So is the frequently cited “Generation Me” a product of social media such as Facebook and Instagram because they promote narcissistic tendencies? Or do these sites simply provide the ideal environment for narcissists? The two scientists were not able to finally answer these questions.

    “We suggest that the link between narcissism and the behaviour in social media follows the pattern of a self-reinforcing spiral,” Markus Appel says. An individual disposition controls the social media activities and these activities in turn reinforce the disposition. To finally resolve this question, more research has to be conducted over longer periods.