If You Share This Article, You're A Narcissist

A new study links sharing of science articles online with ego-enhancing behavior.

In a bit of mixed news for science and business publications everywhere, a new study links sharing of business and science articles online with increased narcissism. 33Across, a large online content- and advertising-delivering firm, released a study of content sharing behavior in late 2012 which analyzed shares and pageviews at 450 clients who use their Tynt platform. The study found that science and reference articles are by far the most frequently shared content online, but that relatively few people links are sent to (or who see them on Twitter or Facebook) click on them.

The study calls this the "astrophysics vs. Kim Kardashian" effect. Approximately 11.8% of all science articles viewed on Tynt-affiliated websites are shared with others, but the clickback rate for those links was only 9%. By comparison, only 1.7% of celebrity-related articles on Tynt client sites are shared, but the clickback rate for celebrity articles is 40.3%.

33Across claims that the discrepancy between how many people share science and reference articles and how few people click on them is related to self-image. A matrix created from the company's data divides online sharing into four distinct categories; sharing of business and science stories are categorized as "ego sharing." According to the researchers who worked at the study, the common thread among frequently-shared-but-infrequently-clicked-on stories were a "focus on esoteric topics that appeal only to a specific, highly educated minority." Basically, the company claims that sharing of science articles is linked with personal branding efforts—it's more about the person sharing the links trying to intentionally identify themselves with certain topics.

However, Internet users are amazingly likely to click on political stories. 33Across's data found an amazing 77.4% clickback rate for politics stories, even though only 2.2% of politics stories on their clients' sites were shared with others. This indicates that controversial stories which people are passionate about, unsurprisingly, get passed around the interwebs. Owing, perhaps, to the global passion for gadgets, technology article viewing habits are largely discoupled from science or business. 4% of all technology articles on Tynt client sites are shared by users, with a healthy 16% clickback rate. Apart from political and celebrity articles, news (86.3%), entertainment (42.2%), and men's media (46.6%) have the highest clickback rates.

Although 33Across did not disclose the companies which participated in the study, Tynt clients include Sports Illustrated, the Financial Times, Men's Health, Fox News, the New York Daily News, the New York Post, Politico, and the Smithsonian Institution.

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[Top Image: Flickr user Helga Weber]

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3 Comments

  • Yo

    Problem with this study is that it presumes people know that the science articles they share aren't being read. The sharer doesn't have the info that this study about sharing produced. Furthermore, what theory or hypothesis links the pursuit of socially futile activities with narcissism, what is the connection? There doesn't seem to be one. The connection is assumed. There is no other measure of narcissism, which sharing of certain content is compared with!!!  Conclusion, bunk-ass study.

  • Daniel

    A fascinating study that is definitely share-worthy. Alas, I am not a narcissist, so I cannot do so myself. :(