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EgoTech makes Millennials 16% more narcissistic as they age?

Extensive use of on-demand apps is linked to narcissism. Especially if you are a Millennial.

Specifically, if you are a Millennial (i.e, aged 18-35 in 2016) and you use more than a couple of on-demand apps such as Uber or Instacart, then you are more likely to over-index on narcissism as measured by the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (narcissism is a personality trait (part of the ‘dark triad’ of personality traits with psychopathy and Machiavellianism), characterised by an over-inflated sense of self).

That’s one of the key findings of the latest Syzygy study on the effects of digital technology on Millennial consumers – EgoTech: How to Win the Hearts, Minds and Wallets of Adult Millennials (free download here). The national US study involved 2,568 Millennials taking the psychometric Narcissistic Personality Inventory in 2016, and found that compared to a matched sample of pre-Millennials (Gen X and Boomers), Millennials retain their distinctive trait of elevated narcissism in adulthood. On average, adult Millennials remain 16% more narcissistic than pre-Millennials.

Perhaps just as interesting are the findings that digital behaviour is linked to narcissism.

  • Among Millennials
    • The more on-demand apps you use, the more narcissistic you are likely to be
    • Posting more than 3 social media updates per day is associated with elevated narcissism
    • The more selfies you post, the higher your narcissism
    • Those who wouldn’t share their smartphone with a friend are 18% more narcissistic
    • Those who would prefer to give up breakfast rather than their phone for a month are 13% more narcissistic
    • Owners of selfie-sticks are 34% more narcissistic

Of course, correlation does not mean causation, and the link between digital technology and narcissism is not new – along with celebrity culture, easy credit and changing parenting styles, digital technology is thought to be a key driver of narcissism (see Dr. Jean Twenge‘s research for more here, herehere, and here). Why?  Because digital technology is personal and it puts you in control, empowers the self, and thereby flatters the ego.  The smartphone is not a phone, it’s a remote control for life. And all those cab icons you see on your Uber app screen, they are your slaves, competing for your business. Which is why the future of digital is EgoTech, technology designed to flatter the ego and pander to the cult of the self.  Think the Starbuck’s app for jumping the line (because you’re worth it), social media apps with flattering filters, Uber for Everything apps, fitness and wellbeing apps that are all about you…

Psychologically, the key insight for digital marketing and digital innovation is that narcissism is made up of seven sub-traits, each of which provide useful creative platforms for commercial success in a world of elevated narcissism.

7 EgoTech Platforms

  • Entitlement: Give me the best (Uber Luxe, VIP service and offers)
  • Superiority: Flatter my ego (Starbucks line-busting app, Amazon Prime Now)
  • Exhibitionism: Help me flaunt it (Tesla, the new status symbol)
  • Vanity: Make me look good (Snapchat, Instagram)
  • Exploitativeness: Make me king of the world (Instacart, Postmates, Uber)
  • Authority: Amplify my influence (Quora, Medium, Twitter)
  • Self-sufficiency: Help me know myself (Fitbit, Headspace, 23andMe)

Of course, we can debate endlessly as to whether the rise of digital-driven narcissism is a good thing that empowers the self, or a bad thing that fosters egocentrism, but business opportunity for EgoTech is clear. Use EgoTech – technology that flatters the ego and panders to the cult of the self – to trump, or rather Trump, your competitors.


Written by
Dr Paul Marsden
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Digital wellbeing covers the latest scientific research on the impact of digital technology on human wellbeing. Curated by psychologist Dr. Paul Marsden (@marsattacks). Sponsored by WPP agency SYZYGY.