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Online communication styles of narcissistic content and low versus high social media engagement: evidence from Instagram

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Abstract

Given their need for social recognition, narcissists often engage in activities that are valued on social media. While communicating about such socially rewarding activities on social media—what we refer to as narcissistic content—has become common, little is known about how narcissists communicate and how this communication affects social media engagement. Using the hashtag #workout and a combination of application programming interface and human coders to generate a unique dataset of 1096 Instagram posts, we show that online communication style varies with the degree of narcissism and that such communication deeply shapes audiences’ engagement with narcissistic content. Further, we show that using more hashtags significantly increases low-level engagement, while using more emojis significantly increases high-level engagement when posted by a profile with a higher degree of narcissism. By shedding light on these overlooked aspects, we aim to guide both research and practice toward a more holistic understanding of narcissistic communication and its effects on social media.

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Owing to the nature of this research, the participants did not agree for their data to be shared publicly; thus, supporting data are not available.

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Correspondence to Jana Gross.

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Appendices

Appendices

1.1 Appendix 1

Table 4 Summary of the different categories and their activities

1.2 Appendix 2

Fig. 1
figure 1

Example of an Instagram post using the hashtag “workout” (Source: Instagram (2023))

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Gross, J., Lunardo, R. Online communication styles of narcissistic content and low versus high social media engagement: evidence from Instagram. Mark Lett (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11002-023-09707-1

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