Narcissism vulnerable approval
Vulnerable narcissist are more likely to seek approval on social media. Victoria Henderson/Flickr creative commons

Individuals who suffer from narcissistic personality disorder may be more at risk than others of developing an addiction to social networks, scientists have said. 'Vulnerable narcissists' in particular – those who are most insecure – are more likely to seek approval online rather than in face-to-face interactions.

True enough, we may all be a little narcissistic on social media. For individuals who are pathologically narcissistic, selfies, 'likes' and other social tools provide the perfect platform to seek the approval of others. However, the recent study shows some narcissists are more likely to be dependant on social media than others.

The term narcissist originates from Greek mythology, in the story of young Narcissus who fell in love with his own image reflected in a pool of water.

Narcissus has given its name to the narcissistic personality disorder defined in the DSM-5 - the international reference for the definition of mental health disorders – as an impairment characterised by excess self-esteem, the constant need to get the approval of others, feelings of grandiosity and entitlement, as well as little empathy for others.

In their study, published in Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking,the scientists have investigated how narcissists acted on social network sites, identifying those more at risk of addiction.

Two types of narcissists

In recent years, scientific literature has come up with two distinct categories of narcissists, although these are not officially recognised. According to them, there are 'grandiose narcissists' and 'vulnerable narcissists'.

Grandiose narcissists are recognisable by their search for admiration, high self-esteem, and arrogance, while 'vulnerable narcissists' seem to have a defensive and insecure sense of grandiosity associated with low self-esteem, shame proneness, shyness, and hypersensitivity to the evaluation of others.

Facebook Logo
Facebook is one of the biggest forms of social media in the world Sean Gallup/Getty

In this study, the authors have recruited 535 students who completed the 16-item Narcissistic Personality Inventory and the Hypersensitive Narcissism Scale, two tests to assess who can be diagnosed as 'narcissistic' and what categories of narcissists they belong to. 80 participants were diagnosed as 'grandiose narcissists', and 67 as 'vulnerable narcissists'.

The scientists also had the participants complete a survey about their use of internet and social media. They found out that vulnerable narcissists were more likely to feel safer in online versus face-to-face interactions, which potentially led them to grow addicted to social networking as a means to gain approval and admiration. In contrast, grandiose narcissists, who tend toward arrogance and exhibitionism were more likely to seek out admiration more openly, rather than through social media.

"Social media might be an ideal setting for the self-presentation of vulnerable narcissists as users can manipulate information by choosing what to disclose and what to hide. These sites might provide vulnerable narcissists the opportunity to better manage the impression they want to give to others, thus increasing the chances to get that admiration they are afraid not being able to achieve in face-to-face exchanges", the authors say.