Visual Social Media Use Moderates the Relationship between Initial Problematic Internet Use and Later Narcissism

Phil Reed1, Nazli I. Bircek1, Lisa A. Osborne2, Caterina Viganò3, Roberto Truzoli3, *
1 Department of Psychology, Swansea University, Swansea, UK
2 Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board, UK
3 Department of Biomedical and Clinical Sciences, University of Milan, via G.B. Grassi, 74 20157 Milan, Italy

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Creative Commons License
© 2018 Reed et al.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: ( This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Department of Biomedical and Clinical Sciences, University of Milan, via G.B. Grassi, 74 20157 Milan, Italy; Tel: +393336126954; E-mail:



Little is known about the temporal directionality of relationships between problematic internet use and personality disorders such as narcissism.


Although these two constructs are related at a single time, no existent study has determined whether initial problematic internet use is more strongly associated with subsequent narcissism, or vice versa. So, the aim of the research is to verify if problematic internet use predicts the narcissism or vice versa.


Seventy-four university student participants were studied over a four-month period, and completed the Narcissism Personality Inventory, and Problematic Internet Use Questionnaire, at baseline and follow-up.


The results demonstrated a relationship between problematic internet use and narcissism at baseline. Time-lagged correlations demonstrated that problematic internet use at baseline was positively related to narcissism four-months later, but not vice versa for social media users whose use was primarily visual. This relationship did not hold for social media users whose use was primarily verbal.


These results suggest that problematic internet use may serve to discharge narcissistic personality traits for those who use social media in a visual way, but not for those who do not engage in that form of internet use.

Keywords: Narcissism, Longitudinal study, Facebook, Instagram, Social media, PIU.