Elliot Panek, Yioryos Nardis and Sara Konrath of the University of Michigan recruited 486 college undergraduates -- three-quarters were female with a median age was 19. Participants answered questions about the extent of their social media use, and also took a personality assessment measuring different aspects of narcissism, including exhibitionism, exploitativeness, superiority, authority and self-sufficiency.
"Among young adult college students, we found that those who scored higher in certain types of narcissism posted more often on Twitter," Panek, who recently received his doctorate in communication studies from the University of Michigan and will join Drexel University this fall as a visiting fellow, said in a statement. "But among middle-aged adults from the general population, narcissists posted more frequent status updates on Facebook."
Facebook serves narcissistic adults as a mirror, Panek said.
"It's about curating your own image, how you are seen, and also checking on how others respond to this image," he said. "Middle-aged adults usually have already formed their social selves, and they use social media to gain approval from those who are already in their social circles."
For narcissistic college students, the social media tool of choice was the megaphone of Twitter, Panek said.
"Young people may over-evaluate the importance of their own opinions," Panek said. "Through Twitter, they're trying to broaden their social circles and broadcast their views about a wide range of topics and issues."
The study was published online in Computers in Human Behavior.