It sounds like an update to an old adage: what happens when you take a smartphone away from a narcissist?
The answer, according to researchers in Romania who published a recent study about that exact question in the Journal of Psychology, is fascinating. They found that individuals who exhibit signs of narcissism, which is defined by a sense of both self-aggrandizing and insecurity, are much more stressed out than their less-narcissistic peers when they don't have their phones.
Known as "nomophobia," an incredible portmanteau of the words "no mobile phone phobia," the fear of being without one's smartphone has become a common experience as we become more and more reliant upon — or addicted to — those tiny computers in our pockets.
While it's not at all uncommon to feel a sense of stress or unease when being without one's phone, psychological researchers Alexandra Maftei and Acnana-Maria Pătrăușanu at Romania's Alexandru Ioan Cuza University found that the more narcissistic their survey respondents seemed to be, the worse their nomophobia tended to get.
Using an online survey tool, the academics recruited 559 participants between the ages of 18 and 45 from post-secondary schools and universities in Eastern Romania and asked them questions that assessed their narcissistic traits, how stressed out they were, and how addicted to social media they were.
In turn, Maftei and Pătrăușanu found that the higher respondents scored on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory assessment they used, the more phone-addicted and nomophobic they seemed. As such, those who had greater levels of social media addiction and nomophobia also, in many cases, tended to be more stressed.
Interestingly, the younger respondents in the study tended to skew both more narcissistic and more nomophobic, which probably makes sense given that today's young adults have spent most of their lives online and had their identities shaped and mediated by social media.
While being on social media all the time is certainly a stressor of its own, the dependence that narcissistic individuals seem to, per this study and others like it, have on social media is likely a compounding factor. When you take that stressor away, it perversely makes narcissistic individuals more stressed — and further study will need to be done to figure out why, exactly, that conundrum exists.
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