Often scientists confirm the obvious. One recent example is that a study has shown that narcissists who use Facebook behave as narcissists when using Facebook. As one researcher said, “It just turns out that narcissists are using Facebook the same way they use their other relationships – for self promotion with an emphasis on quantity of over quality.”
This is, of course, hardly a surprise. After all, people tend to be fairly consistent in regards to negative behavioral patterns. Now, if narcissists did not act like narcissists on Facebook, then that would be a surprise. I suspect there has been a study that also shows that people who are jerks in real life are also jerks online.
While it is tempting to dismiss this study as yet another example of studying the obvious, the matter of how the internet in general and social networking sites in particular impact on social relationships is quite interesting. After all, the internet and social networking sites like Facebook provide people with a new way to create, manage and end their relationships with other people. While it seems likely that people will act online as they do offline, there will probably be some differences arising from the nature of the interaction. After all, managing relationships via a website is a change from the “old” ways of managing relationships with people.
I suspect that Facebook will have far less impact on “real” relationships (that is, those that are also maintained in person or via more traditional methods) than it will on peripheral relationships. At the very least, sites like Facebook allow people to vastly increase their peripheral relationships by adding “friends” who they only interact with via the medium of Facebook. It will be interesting to see how these peripheral relationships develop (or die) in years to come. Perhaps there will be a fundamental shift in relationships with a much vaster sphere of casual and peripheral relationships. Then again, perhaps these “relationships” will not really amount to anything. After all, they might be so peripheral and tenuous that they amount to little more than (by analogy) having a “relationship” with people who are listed in the phone book in your house. That is, you have their names and little information about them, but nothing significant.