Narcissism + Social Media = Creativity?

Narcissism. [narh-suh-siz-em] {noun} Excessive interest in or admiration of oneself. Narcissism typically has negative connotations, but recently psychology researchers have made the argument that being slightly narcissistic can have its advantages. Say-what? Seriously. Researchers have found that narcissistic people are better at selling their ideas and coming across as being creative (Goncalo, Flynn, & Kim, 2010). Creativity is a highly coveted trait for employees across many industries these days (you can thank Steve Jobs for that) and is something that many employers are looking in new hires. So do you have to be narcissist to be creative and get a job – probably not, but it may help. Goncalo et al. found that narcissistic people ARE NOT more creative than non-narcissistic people, but they are better at selling their pitches, and coming across as being more confident and charismatic. Evaluators in psychological studies over and over rate people who score high on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) as having the potential to be more effective leaders, produce more creative ideas, and have better follow-through on projects. While people who rank lower on the NPI, have a tougher time convincing people of their creative ideas (if the non-narcissist has the confidence to continue with the idea at all).

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Not to worry, social media has our back. Social media is the narcissist’s best friend and may also be bringing a little narcissism out in all of us…which is OK! In 2012, researchers analyzed the three major social media platforms (Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook) in an effort to understand how social media channels influence consumer communications (Smith, Fischer, & Yongjian, 2012). Of the three social media channels explored, people were more likely to use YouTube than Facebook or Twitter to feature self-promotion. Between Facebook and Twitter, they found people were more likely to promote themselves on Facebook more than twitter, through the construction of one’s profile. They argue that, “identity and self-presentation are less of a focus on Twitter than is conversation (Smith, Fischer, & Yongjian, 2012).” I would be interested to see how this may change over time as people become more sophisticated users of Twitter.

Furthermore, research of narcissism over the years has shown an increase. NPI among university students have been increasing almost since it was first developed. Below are two figures taken from Twenge et al. (2008) showing NPI scores for American undergraduate samples across time.

 NPI by year

NPI by year

We clearly live in an increasingly narcissistic culture so what is it about social media that adds steroids to a narcissistic culture? Thomas Plante puts it best, “In a nutshell, social media is a high tech way to say “Look at me!”  Social media might be fueling the fire of a narcissistic culture, but in moderation, this may be OK.  If anything social media may be the tool to increase our confidence and get other people to believe we are confident and charismatic by unabashed self-promotion online. If anything being slightly narcissistic can level the playing field with true narcissists that are being perceived as more creative, while truly creative ideas are charmingly being overlooked.

If you are interested in taking the Narcissistic Personality Scale ( I know you are)…Click HERE.


Goncalo, J. A., Flynn, F. J., & Kim, S. H. (2010). Are tow narcissists better than one? The link between narcissism, perceived creativity, and creative performance. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 36(11), 1484-1495.

Smith, A. N., Fischer, E., & Yongjian, C. (2012). How does brand-related user-generated content differ across YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter? Journal of Interactive Marketing, 26 (2012), 102-113.

Twenge, J; Konrath, S.; Foster, J.; Campbell, W.K.; Brad J. Bushman (2008). "Egos Infating Over Time: A Cross-Temporal Meta-Analysis of the Narcissistic Personality Inventory". Journal of Personality, 76(4), 876-901.