New research published in Computers in Human Behavior provides new insights into selfie-posting behavior on social networking websites. The findings indicate that posting selfies is associated with some forms of narcissism but not others. It also appears to differ based on geographic regions.

“As a developmental researcher, I’m interested in the underlying mechanisms and processes of online behaviors. Can we predict how individuals will act in online environments? Are these predictors linked with individual (personality) or community (e.g., cultural) characteristics?” said study author Christina Shane-Simpson, an assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Stout.

“Furthermore, although there’s a wealth of literature exploring links between personality and social media use, many of these studies focus on ‘general social media use’ or ‘intensity of social media use.’ To combat these overgeneralizations of social media, our research team decided to focus on a specific online behavior that occurs across multiple social media sites – selfies.”

The researchers had 470 American and 260 Lebanese students complete measures of narcissistic traits and selfie-posting behavior on Facebook and Instagram.

“Although narcissism is a complex personality characteristic (supported by our findings), it can predict some online behaviors in certain circumstances,” Shane-Simpson told PsyPost.

In particular, grandiose narcissism — which describes an overinflated ego and sense of importance — was positively associated with posting selfies online.

But leadership narcissism, entitlement narcissism, and vulnerable narcissism were not associated with selfie behaviors. These three subtypes of narcissism describe desiring to have authority over other people, expecting a great deal from other people, and being self-absorbed while having a tendency to feel slighted, respectively.

The researchers also found that individuals from the northeastern United States tended to post more selfies than those from the midwestern United States and those from Lebanon.

“We found that the norms of a cultural community may also impact online behaviors. This second finding is surprising given that online spaces are often described as not bound by offline cultural norms,” Shane-Simpson said.

The study — like all research — includes some limitations.

“Due to the scope of our study, we were only scratching the surface of community-based differences in predictive models for online behavior. We desperately need more cross-cultural studies that investigate differences in online behavior and the models that predict online behavior. Research is needed to explore which elements of a geographic community (e.g., collectivism vs. individualism) might be linked with certain online behaviors,” Shane-Simpson explained.

“The findings from our study also suggest that personality predictors of online behavior may differ across geographic community, and therefore, we should explore which personality traits are predictive within specific cultural communities.”

The study, “I Love My Selfie! An Investigation of Overt and Covert Narcissism to Understand Selfie-Posting Behaviors within Three Geographic Communities“, was authored by Christina Shane-Simpson, Anna M. Schwartz, Rudy Abi-Habib, Pia Tohme, and Rita Obeid.