It’s often said that bullies only act the way they do because they are unhappy with themselves, but a new study has drawn a link between those with very high opinions of themselves and the tendency to use social media for antisocial means.
The study was put together by researchers from The University of London and Brunel University London, and looked at how narcissism and gender affect the way we use social media.
Focusing entirely on Facebook, the researchers quizzed 573 users of the site to see if they displayed narcissistic tendencies. They then monitored the ways their subjects were using Facebook to see whether or not the more narcissistic respondents were behaving in a different way online.
When the analysis was complete, the authors of the study noted:
“When narcissists use Facebook, they tend to do so for self-promoting content, including frequent Facebook status updates, and brag about their achievements in their updates.”
They went on to say that this can extend to an aggressive response to criticism or content they did not agree with, and that the findings add further weight to assertions made by experts like C.M. Kokkinos that narcissists are more likely to self-promote via social media.
Furthermore, the study found that men are usually more prone to displaying narcissistic traits, and this makes them more likely to be cyberbullies. Women, meanwhile, are more likely to use Facebook to seek approval from their peers, build their existing relationships and boost their self-esteem.
Does this mean bullies are actually happy with themselves?
People on the receiving end of bullying, whether online or offline, are often comforted by being told that bullies are insecure, weak, cowardly and unhappy. With the study suggesting that it is in fact people with high levels of self-esteem and confidence that are more prone to cyberbullying, does this actually suggest that it’s the more subdued and sociable among us who are lacking courage and assertion?
A 2007 study titled ‘The Narcissistic Self’ by W. Keith Campbell and Joshua D. Foster points out some of the character traits possessed by narcissists, most of which do not sound desirable. They noted that narcissists fantasise about power, display selfishness and greed, and hold views about themselves that are contrary to reality. These are all weaknesses of character, suggesting that narcissists, and therefore cyberbullies, may not necessarily be unhappy, but they are deluded and ignorant. And as the poet Thomas Gray wrote, ignorance is bliss.
If you’re having problems with cyberbullies, especially ones using a fake Facebook account to spread their poison, take a look at the eBook we’ve created via the Online Learning Academy that shows you how to hunt down the individuals hiding behind social media masks.