Generation X, Social Media, and Narcissism

This blog post is from my talk on Tuesday which was centred around why your parents consume more social media than you. Yes, you read that right, if you are a 35 years old and younger (Millennials, or generation Y if you prefer), while your parents are 35-49 (Generation X, or Echo Boomers), then your parents actually consume on average more social media than you do per week.

  • Adults 35 to 49 were found to spend an average of 6 hours 58 minutes a week on social media networks
  • Compared with 6 hours 19 minutes for the younger group
  • While adults 50 and over spent significantly less time on the networks: an average of 4 hours 9 minutes a week.

These are very surprising statistics, especially when you consider that generation Y also has a increased access to 24/7 social media through smart phones than Generation X.

  • Access to smartphones:
    • 97 percent of people 18 to 34
    • 94 percent of people 35 to 49
    • 77 percent for those 50 and older


Generation Y had a higher likely hood to have 24 hour access to social media than generation X, yet spent less time doing so? What could explain this? Well, in short, narcissism. It is well known that generation Y takes a lot of flak for being the “generation me”. However, a meta analysis (Roberts et. Al. 2010) has proven that this is not true, and that every generation is a “generation me” with no statistical increase in narcissism in generation Y.

Yes, your parents generation might be more prone to narcissist personalities than your generation . Previous research found that narcissism was positively related to levels of social activity and intentions of self-promotion; that is, the more narcissistic a person was, the more he or she was likely in interact with other people in the online community, and the more he or she would be likely to post-self-promoting content (Buffardi & Campbell, 2008). The study also found no generational differences in using Facebook and blogs as a means to satisfy social needs or the need for affection. It is well known that generation Y takes a lot of flak for being the “generation me”

Narcissism is first of all a personality. According to Campbell and Foster (2007):

“narcissism is a quality of the self that has significant implications for thinking, feeling, and behaving. Individuals with narcissistic personality possess highly inflated, unrealistically positive views of the self. Often times, this includes strong self-focus, feelings of entitlement, and lack of regard for others. Narcissists focus on what benefits them personally, with less regard for how their actions may benefit (or harm) others” (Campbell and Foster, 2007)

This raises interesting questions about generation X’s increases consumption of social media. Is this increase solely due to a increased narccistic social tendencies? Well, yes and no, there are other reasons for why individuals use Social Media. Factor analysis results showed that content generation using social media was satisfying five socio-psychological needs: showing affection, venting negative feelings, gaining recognition, getting entertainment, and fulfilling cognitive needs (Buffardi & Campbell, 2008). Narcissism is just easier to measure than many other cognitive differences, and has been directly linked to Social Media usage through many studies. Overall the amount of studies conducted on this topic is rather insufficient, and is definitely something that needs to be looked into more to understand how social media will effect future generation to come.


  1. (Campbell and Foster, 2007)
  2. (Buffardi & Campbell, 2008)
  3. (Roberts et. Al. 2010)

12 thoughts on “Generation X, Social Media, and Narcissism

  1. After listening to your talk and reading your blog, I think one factor that could explain the social media consumption for Generation X is lifestyles. Although we have 24 hr access to social media, we are to consumed with life like school, jobs, ect… while with Generation X and even baby boomers they are retired, or maybe stay at home moms, or individuals who have more time to go on social media because they are in their career and have built a life for themselves, not starting a career and trying to build a life for themselves. One question that I have in relation to the study is did the experimenter analyze what types of social media was being used? Would Gen X and baby boomers use more accessible apps like Facebook, or LinkedIn, while Younger Generations like Generation i use more apps like instragram, snapchat, kik, and twitter, etc? One article that I found interesting is about comparison of ages, generations, and self related behaviours. This article shows that young females are the most active in selfies than any other group that they compared, which relates back to the idea of narcissism.

    Cabral, J. (2011). Is Generation Y Addicted to Social Media? The Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications, 2(1), 5–14.
    Dhir, A., Pallesen, S., Torsheim, T., & Andreassen, C. S. (2016). Do age and gender differences exist in selfie-related behaviours? Computers in Human Behavior, 63, 549–555. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2016.05.053
    Zhitomirsky-Geffet, M., & Blau, M. (2016). Cross-generational analysis of predictive factors of addictive behavior in smartphone usage. Computers in Human Behavior, 64, 682–693. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2016.07.061


    • Hi Kassie thanks for your response, one thing I should specify is that generation X (echo boomers) is the only generation to use social media than generation Y. Baby boomers use less social media than both generation X and generation Y, yet they should have the most free time out of both generations as they are retired. So yes I believe that free time plays a role in this, however it cannot be too big of a factor considering the generation with the most free time consumes the least social media. Also to answer your question yes they did analyze which social media platforms were uses by which generation the most. Baby boomers were more likely to use blogs as a social media. While generation X was Facebook, and generation Y was snapchat and twitter. Also the study I sourced earlier found that in generation X, females used the most social media as well.

      Dhir, A., Pallesen, S., Torsheim, T., & Andreassen, C. S. (2016). Do age and gender differences exist in selfie-related behaviours? Computers in Human Behavior, 63, 549–555. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2016.05.053
      Zhitomirsky-Geffet, M., & Blau, M. (2016). Cross-generational analysis of predictive factors of addictive behavior in smartphone usage. Computers in Human Behavior, 64, 682–693. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2016.07.061

      Liked by 1 person

  2. One of the factors that might underlie the increased consumption of social media by Generation X could be the rapidly evolving technology and our exposure to it. Our generation (Y) and the generation after ours has been/is growing up with techonology that constantly connects us to our friends and that is ever present. Therefore, we are learning to grow up in a world where our peers can constantly see and reach us. This phenomenon may cause an effect known as “social media fatigue” (Bright, Kleiser, & Grau, 2015) Generation X did not grow up with this constant connection to their peers. Therefore, they might see the social media platforms as a means to finally have a way to connct to the people they have been wanting to. People belonging to generation X would not experience this fatigue and then spend more time on social media.

    Bright, L. F., Kleiser, S. B., & Grau, S. L. (2015). Too much Facebook? An exploratory examination of social media fatigue. Computers in Human Behavior, 44, 148-155.


    • A big question I have with this hypothesis about why generation X uses social media more Than generation Y is why it seems to not have affected the baby boomers in the same way that it affected generation X? Shouldn’t they have experienced this even more since they were both older and unused to such new technology to keep in touch with friends? I was so interested in this that I actually went and looked it up. This study “How The Boomers Differ From Everybody In Their Approach To Online Privacy And Security” says that baby boomers are the group that is least interested in Social Media due to privacy concerns because they just don’t feel comfortable “sharing such intimate things on Facebook” like relationship statuses or personal opinions. This is surprising to me but they make a very good argument and that generation X doesn’t share the same concerns to that degree.


  3. I really enjoyed your presentation and will be forcing my mother to read your blog to put an end to her constantly criticizing me for spending too much time on social media. I actually find the topic so interesting and I found an article that looks at level or narcissism based on different social media platforms, which is actually really interesting. It states that those who prefer twitter as their social media outlet as apposed to Facebook are actually more narcissistic! May be worth checking out.


    Davenport S. W., Bergman S. M., Bergman J. Z., & Fearrington M. E. (2014). Twitter versus Facebook: Exploring the role of narcissism in the motives and usage of different social media platforms. Computers in Human Behavior, 32, 212-220.


    • Hi Brittin thanks for the study, it was very interesting, this phenomenon could be because people that have multiple social media accounts are more likely to have a narcissistic personality, and people with twitter accounts are more likely to have multiple social media accounts. This means that on average, people with twitter accounts will spend more time on social media than people with Facebook accounts. Another huge factor in narcissism apparently has to do with gender, with women from both generation X and Y being the majority in social media users. Don’t get me wrong, men are just as likely to be narcissistic, but narcissistic women are more likely to use social media fro longer than narcissistic men. Also I hope your mom likes my blog, I know my mother does haha.
      Narcissism and Social Networking Web Sites


  4. Thank you Aidan for sharing this topic with us. I find it quite interesting as often times as Millennial, we get stereotyped that we are narcissistic, always on our phones, and not socializing as much as we should be face to face. However like you found out, we actually spend less time using social media compared Generation X.

    I actually found this article written in Times magazine titled “The Me Me Me Generation”(1). In this article, it gives us all the facts (or the stereotypical facts) of Generation Y and why we, as Millennials, are actually narcissistic and full of ourselves. In this article it gives us the example of how we are typically seen: “Millennials are interacting all day but almost entirely through a screen. You’ve seen them at bars, sitting next to one another and texting. They might look calm, but they’re deeply anxious about missing out on something better. Seventy percent of them check their phones every hour, and many experience phantom pocket-vibration syndrome.” We essentially don’t want to miss out on anything, and that’s why we are perceived as this, however, most of the time we check our social media frequently, but maybe not necessarily as long. We are also the generation that produces more selfies, videos of ourselves, etc. to increase our self-esteem due to the self-involvement.

    In the article I found in Times magazine, it however also mentions that our self-involvement with ourselves is actually a continuation of our parents. That we act this way because our parents acted this way, which I think goes back to the change of previous ideologies in other generations. We continue acting this way due to the shift in ideologies during our parent’s time, and the change of the external environment, such as the introduction to electronics and the Internet. The internet was not introduced until after they had children however, so using it can spark an interest in parents and getting connected to people they haven’t been connected to in years is definitely a perk they see after getting social media. So essentially we act this way because we have to adapt to our external surroundings, but we are our parents, so narcissism is still there in their generation. Thus, maybe this could explain why they are actually so involved in social media once it was introduced?



    • One of the articles I posted actually goes very in-depth on why a lot of articles comparing narcism of todays youth are incorrect. It’s a meta analysis by Roberts et. Al. 2010 and it says that every generation is a “generation me” with no statistical increase in narcissism in generation Y. What they claim is that when you use larger sample sizes, you see the narssatistic personality isn’t as high as some studies would lead you to believe, that they use small sample sizes from select groups (like college students) to boost their numbers. They claim that since narcissism decreases with age, that every generation started out more narcissistic than the last, and that we are nothing new.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Woooow interesting topic you got there. I thought only young people like Media. I remember the first gift my Dad got for my Grandmother and ipad so that they could skype this woman used it as a cutting board to chop her ingredients for cooking lol. Thats just by the way. I guess social Media is now the new trend. it has become a healthy outlet for the elderly to be specific. it has become a way to exercise their minds. Amazing percentage and numbers that i have seen through your article and that of what i found on line. you should take a look at it.


  6. This is an interesting topic for you to pick with regards to personality and narcissism. I am assuming since the study you used was a meta analysis they simply looked at information instead of trying to to any experiments to gather a base measure of narcissism. As you state above they assume that each generation is more narcissistic than the last so then why would the “gen x’ers” be more narcissistic than millennials since logically it mean that the generation after “gen x” millennials would be more narcissistic? I noticed that you said the researched criteria like how much people vented but did they look for things like how any images individuals posted on a daily basis? I am asking because I have noticed this rift between gen x and millennials and each generation seems to be looking to the other to blame for why life is not great. a study like this seems to just add fuel to that fire.


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