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Are Today’s Students More Narcissistic?

College students say social networking makes them more narcissistic, a national survey reports today - and they also believe their generation is the most narcissistic of all.

That's what a majority of 1,068 college students said when asked about narcissism in a poll on social networking sites in June by Ypulse.

More than half (57 said their peers used social networking sites such as MySpace, Facebook and Twitter for self-promotion, narcissism and attention-seeking. And 92% said they used MySpace or Facebook regularly. Two-thirds said their generation was more self-promoting, narcissistic, overconfident and attention-seeking than others.

The survey was done with Jean Twenge, associate professor of psychology at San Diego State University and co-author of The Narcissism Epidemic.

Other researchers, however, say self-promotion doesn't have to be a negative.

"We all kind of put on our best face when presenting ourselves in social situations, online or offline," says Nicole Ellison, an assistant professor at Michigan State University in East Lansing who studies social networking. "When good things happen to me, I put that on Facebook, and when bad things happen, I also put it on Facebook. It's a structure to receive emotional support."

Houston Dougharty, vice president for student affairs at Grinnell College in Grinnell, Iowa, says today's students are altruistic and care about helping others, which doesn't say "narcissism" to him.

"I think there's a negative connotation to narcissism that I would not want to promote as a description of this generation." Social networking is "a celebration of individuality and sort of promotion of one's own personality," he says.

But Twenge says her research suggests growing narcissism in Generation Y, based on 40 questions used for decades. Scoring 21 or more indicates more narcissistic traits, she says. In the 1980s, one of seven scored in that range; now it's one in four. "We see this change over time in narcissistic traits, but I was very interested to hear whether young people saw that in their generation," she says.

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