Psychology Melbourne Blog

News and Insights from the Science of the Mind

Dial-up narcissism?

Edited by Jill Wright,

Have you by any chance noticed, ever since you bought that oh-so-useful smartphone, that you've suddenly become surrounded by people whose ideas and conversation ... well ... people whose IQs and personality and all-round attractiveness are inferior to your own? 

Do you find relating to those people is a poor substitute for a fascinating session with your little electronic friend clutched in your hand, flitting between Twitter and Facebook? Even when you're driving?

And do you just happen to ignore the bans on texting and telephoning etc. while you're at the wheel, on account of the fact that the people who make those laws don't know what they're on about?

If so, you might care to catch up with research from psychologists at the University of Derby which suggests that smartphones are psychologically addictive and encourage narcissistic tendencies.

The researchers studied a self-selected sample of 256 smartphone users who were asked about how they used their device. They were also asked a series of questions aimed at establishing their personality traits.

According to the university's press release, "Higher scores of narcissism (excessive interest or admiration of oneself and one's physical appearance) and levels of neuroticism (negative personality traits including moodiness, jealousy, envy and loneliness) were linked to smartphone addiction.

"A significant positive relationship was found between narcissism and addiction to the phones, suggesting that the more narcissistic a person is, the more likely they are to be addicted to their smartphone."

And a significant number of users - 35% - were prepared to flout legal prohibition on usage.

The most popular apps were for social networking (87%), following by instant messaging (52%) and news (51%).

While 47% of respondents spoke about improved social relations, almost a quarter admitted their electronic friends were taking more precedence over real-life contact.

If you believe co-author Dr Zaheer Hussain, from Derby University's psychology department, Facebook and Twitter are a hotbed of smartphone-wielding narcissists.

He says that 13% of respondents were addicted to their electronic devices, spending 3.6 hours a day in intimate contact with them.

While he uses a smartphone himself, he warns that they should carry a health warning pointing to their potentially addictive properties. 

According to the study, "If adverse effects of smartphones are well-advertised, users might realise that despite using the device for improving communications, it can easily lead to narcissistic actions which can potentially break down familial relationships." To say nothing of earning you a very big fine from people who just can't get their heads around motoring multi-tasking.


About the editor, Jill Wright

Jill Wright (MAPS, AAFT, AICD) is the Director and Principal Psychologist at Psychology Melbourne. Jill was twice elected General Director of the Australian Psychological Society and established the APS Victorian branch Study Group Network. Find out more about Jill Wright.

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