Virtual worlds afford self-enhancement for narcissism
McCain, Jessica Leigh
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Virtual worlds (i.e., those that are not physical but nonetheless real) such as social media, video games, and immersive virtual reality, are becoming increasingly common in all areas of our lives. Virtual worlds differ from our physical world by the affordances they provide—i.e., the features offered by virtual worlds combine with our motivations and abilities to create unique opportunities to pursue our goals. Narcissism has been widely studied with regard to virtual worlds, in part because virtual worlds appear to afford unprecedented opportunities to meet narcissistic self-enhancement needs. In the present volume, I present three published articles that each provide support for the hypothesis that virtual worlds afford self-enhancement for narcissism in a way the physical world cannot. The first is a meta-analysis of narcissism and social media use, showing that individuals high in narcissism use four features of social media significantly more often than those low in narcissism. The second is a study of how grandiose and vulnerable narcissists experience the process of taking selfies, and the third examines the role of narcissism in the recent trend of geek culture participation. Implications of this evidence are discussed, and avenues for future research are suggested, including the concept of a self-serving virtuality bias.