People with certain types of issues use Facebook, Instagram and Twitter more.
Social media feeds their issues.
Your online friends — especially the ones you seem to hear from and about the most — may be emotionally stunted and have psychological issues, new research shows.
Indeed, a study presented this month at an American Psychological Association symposium found that people with lower emotional intelligence — including those who have a hard time identifying and processing their emotions — spend more time on social media than those who are in touch with their feelings.
“People who are uncomfortable with their own and others’ emotions may be more comfortable online,” said study researcher Sara Konrath, a professor at Indiana University. “We think that they may prefer text-based interactions that allow them more time to process social and emotional information.”
But perhaps more disturbing is the prevalence of narcissists on social media. The study found that narcissistic and self-centered people spend far more time on social media than compassionate people. Other studies have come to a similar conclusion, with one particularly comprehensive report (a meta-analysis of 57 studies about social media) finding a significant correlation between narcissism and social media use.
“Social networks such as Facebook are believed to be an ideal platform for these people,” wrote Markus Appel, chair of media communication at the University of Würzburg and co-author of the analysis. Indeed, the platform allows you to present the best version of yourself, and then get “likes” on that — fueling narcissistic tendencies. It’s a “self-reinforcing spiral,” he added.
And even if you manage to avoid the emotionally-stunted and the narcissistic, you’re bound to run into an anxious or unstable “friend.” A study published in the journal Personality and Social Media Use in 2013 found that those who were emotionally-stable used social networking sites less, while “individuals who are more anxious and unstable tend to rely on these sites.”
So how can you spot all of the psychologically disturbed individuals clogging up your news feed? Relationship coach Rachel DeAlto says there are quite a few warning signs. “If every picture is a duck face or selfie, buyer beware,” she said, as “self-absorption is evident.”
Exhibiting so-called “victim mentality” is another big issue: “What are they sharing? Is it constant complaints and negativity? If they’re consistently looking to social for validation, it’s a sign they may need a therapist,” she said.
And finally, look out for hostile engagement: “Emotionally-intelligent people don’t harass or create conflict behind screens,” she explained. “If they are initiating or engaging in constant arguments online, watch out.”
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