Everybody has a favorite social network these days, but the most popular of all is still Facebook. Facebook is the best place to catch up on what your college friends are doing, stay in touch with your favorite co-workers from three jobs back, or share photos with all the friends and family you see too infrequently. But if you’re not careful, your Facebook use may say some not-so-nice things about you. In fact, it may make you look like a narcissist, a sociopath, or even a psychopath. The kinds of posts you share, the way you word your updates, and when you choose to post can all provide insight into the less savory aspects of your personality.
Psychologists have paid plenty of attention to the ways your Facebook behavior may reveal characteristics of your personality. And they’ve come to some pretty interesting conclusions about what your social media tendencies that all of your Facebook friends see may reveal about you. Read on to check out some of the studies that have linked specific Facebook actions to traits like psychopathy, narcissism, and sadism, and make sure that your Facebook profile isn’t sending the wrong message to your friends and acquaintances.
1. If you post tons of selfies, you look like a narcissist or a psychopath
This probably comes as a surprise to nobody, but if you post tons of selfies, your Facebook friends are definitely more likely to think that you’re a narcissist, or perhaps even a psychopath. A study by Ohio State University researchers found that men who posted more online photos of themselves scored higher on measures of narcissism and psychopathy. And men who were more likely to edit their selfies before posting them scored higher in narcissism and self-objectification, a measure of how much they prioritize their appearance.
Researchers Jesse Fox and Margaret Rooney noted that the results of the study don’t mean that men who post a lot of selfies are necessarily narcissists or psychopaths, since the men in the study all scored within the normal range of behavior, but with higher-than-average levels of these antisocial traits. Narcissism, for the record, involves extreme self-centeredness and a grandiose self-image, says Psychology Today. Psychopathy involves impulsivity and a lack of empathy. And self-objectification involves the tendency to view one’s body as an object based on its sexual worth.
The study suggests that narcissists are more likely to show off with selfies. They’ll make extra effort to look their best in their photos. Psychopathic men post more selfies, but don’t tend to edit them more than less psychopathic men. Fox and Rooney say that that may be because they lack self-control and don’t filter what they put on Facebook.
2. If you’re constantly posting on Facebook, you look like a narcissist
Everybody knows that humblebrags and attention-seeking posts are high up on the list of things you shouldn’t share on Facebook. But did you know that a variety of psychological studies have examined the link between Facebook usage and narcissism? Things don’t look good for Facebook users who are constantly on the social network and sharing tons of posts and links each day.
Psychology researcher Soraya Mehdizadeh used Facebook to successfully predict a person’s level of narcissism and self-esteem. She discovered that both narcissists and people with lower self-esteem were more likely to spend more than an hour a day on Facebook and were more likely to post self-promotional photos, showcase their lives through frequent status updates, or share self-serving links.
Self-esteem and narcissism are linked according to psychologists. They believe that narcissists — who display a pattern of grandiosity, a need for admiration, and a lack of empathy — inflate their sense of self-importance as a defense against feeling inadequate. Mehdizadeh hypothesized that because narcissists may have trouble sustaining long-term relationships, they may be drawn to Facebook’s world of virtual friends and emotionally detached communication.
3. If you post about your accomplishments, diet, or exercise routine, you’re probably a narcissist
The topics you write about in your Facebook updates may seem pretty innocuous. But researchers have found that they can reveal important things about your personality. Researchers Tara C. Marshall, Katharina Lefringhausen, and Nelli Ferenczi of Brunel University in the U.K. report that narcissism is a pretty good predictor of the kinds of topics that somebody will write about on Facebook.
They found that narcissists post most frequently about their achievements, their diet, and their exercise routine. That behavior is explained by narcissists’ tendency to use Facebook to seek attention and to feel validated. The researchers also note that “narcissists’ tendency to update about their accomplishments explained the greater number of likes and comments that they reported receiving to their updates.”
That’s consistent with narcissists’ tendencies to be vain and exhibitionistic, as well as their likelihood to take care of their physical appearances. Narcissists also tend to boast and brag in order to gain attention, and if you’re broadcasting your diet and exercise routine, that may tell your Facebook friends that you’re trying to express the importance you place on your physical appearance. It’s been established that people can tell that someone is narcissistic by looking at their Facebook profile, so you may want to tone down the bragging about your workouts and diet.
4. If you get angry when people don’t comment on your Facebook posts, or make negative comments, you look like a narcissist
Self-promotional posts aren’t the only Facebook behavior that probably makes you look like a narcissist. Christopher Carpenter of Western Illinois University measured subjects’ self-promoting Facebook behaviors — like posting status updates and photos of themselves, or updating their profile information — and their antisocial behaviors — like seeking social support more often than providing it, getting angry when people don’t comment on one’s status updates, or retaliating against negative comments. Carpenter found that sub scales of the narcissistic personality inventory could predict the self-promoting behaviors, and in some cases, could also predict the antisocial behaviors.
Carpenter noted that narcissists who are given to “grandiose exhibitionism,” which includes behaviors like self-absorption, vanity, superiority, and exhibitionistic tendencies, are likely to have lots of friends on Facebook, since they want attention from as many people as possible.
Those who display “entitlement/explo-itativeness,” which includes a sense of deserving respect and a willingness to manipulate and take advantage of others, often demand social support even when they feel no duty to reciprocate. Those users are also likely to use Facebook to determine what others are saying about them, and to retaliate aggressively when their posts get negative comments or when they think they aren’t getting the respect that they deserve.
5. If you’re a psychopath or a narcissist, it probably shows in your status updates
It’s not just your long-term patterns of Facebook usage that can reveal the darker side of your personality. A study by University of Gothenburg and Lund University researchers Danilo Garcia and Sverker Sikström found that the semantic content of people’s Facebook updates can predict not only narcissism, but also psychopathy. As the researchers put it, such updates had a more “odd” and negative tone than updates by people who don’t tend to display “socially malevolent behavior such as self-promotion, emotional coldness, duplicity, and aggressiveness.”
The researchers found that people with psychopathic personalities were more likely to post negative or odd updates, broaching topics like pornography, prostitutes, butchers, or decapitation. Sikström told Swedish publication The Local that users’ Facebook updates were better able to predict dark traits like psychopathic, narcissistic, or Machiavellian tendencies than the five broad personality traits of openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, neuroticism.
He added that “Facebook is about connecting people, but in doing so it has created a challenge of increasing competition in the market for social interaction.” Sikström hypothesizes that the competition for attention may get people to reveal more of their dark side. But he adds that Facebook users don’t need to worry that friends who post odd status updates are psychopaths, since “even if you show psychopathic personality traits on Facebook, that doesn’t automatically mean you are a psychopath.” But, do you really want your friends to wonder?
6. If you stay Facebook friends with your ex, you may be a psychopath
Everybody has their own reasons for staying Facebook friends with their ex-girlfriend or ex-boyfriend, or opting to end the Facebook friendship as soon as the relationship has run its course. But according to Oakland University’s Justin K. Mogilski and Lisa L.M. Welling, staying friends with your exes on social media, or just staying friends with your exes in general, may mean that one or both of you is psychopathic or narcissistic.
The researchers asked people to identify the reasons why they remained friends with former romantic partners. Then, they asked a second group of people to think back to the time that they decided to remain friends with an ex, and rate the importance of the reasons given by the first group. The most common reasons cited for staying friends with an ex related to the sentimental value of the friendship or the sense of security it afforded. Men were more likely than women to name sex and practicality as reasons to remain friends — and participants who showed psychopathic and narcissistic traits cited those reasons most of all.
Mogilski and Welling took particular note in their study of the type of individual who stays friends with their ex on social media.
Individuals who score higher on measures of dark personality tend to choose friends for strategic purposes, rate friendship as lower in importance, and prefer short-term versus long-term romantic relationships. Thus, it is likely that these traits will be associated with valuing friendships for utilitarian or instrumental reasons, such as to maintain sexual access.
Thinking of staying Facebook friends with your ex? Better hit that unfriend button right away.
7. If you’re a Facebook troll, you may be a psychopath or a sadist
Trolls can be the bane of responsible internet citizens’ existence on just about any site. But if you amuse yourself by trolling others on Facebook, that may say some not-so-nice things about your personality. Researchers Erin E. Buckels, Paul D. Trapnell, and Delroy L. Paulhus of the Universities of Manitoba, Winnipeg, and British Columbia found a correlation “between trolling and the Dark Tetrad of personality: trolling correlated positively with sadism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism.”
Internet users who displayed sadism, psychopathy, Machiavellianism, and narcissism spent more time making comments online, and “Dark Tetrad scores were highest among those who selected trolling as the most enjoyable activity” when commenting online. Sadism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism scores were positively correlated with self-reported enjoyment of trolling, and associations between sadism and trolling were particularly strong.
The researchers note that “the troll persona appears to be a malicious case of a virtual avatar, reflecting both actual personality and one’s ideal self. Our research suggests that, for those with sadistic personalities, that ideal self may be a villain of chaos and mayhem – the online Trickster we fear, envy, and love to hate: the cyber-troll.” So, if you’re picking fights and trolling unsuspecting strangers on Facebook, you can bet that that tells people something about your personality.