Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

The selfie vs. the group photo: which actually makes us happier?

selfie-self-esteem.jpg

If you’ve ever felt a surge of existential bleakness after spending 20 minutes scrolling mindlessly through a fitness model’s Instagram profile, you’ll understand why more and more research is being dedicated to the impact of social media on our psychological wellbeing.

So far, much of this research has examined the effect of posting on social media – particularly the proliferation of selfies. But now, a new study has examined what happens when we view different kinds of photos on sites like Instagram and Facebook.

Researchers at Penn State University in the US discovered that spending too much time looking at selfies on social media can have a serious impact on our sense of self-esteem and life satisfaction.

But viewing group photos, in contrast, was found to have the opposite effect entirely.

jessica alba selfie

Jessica Alba snaps a selfie at an event in Los Angeles, October 2016.

“Most of the research done on social network sites looks at the motivation for posting and liking content, but we’re now starting to look at the effect of viewing behaviour,” said Ruoxu Wang, one of the study’s lead researchers.

She added: “People usually post selfies when they’re happy or having fun. This makes it easy for someone else to look at these pictures and think his or her life is not as great as theirs.”


Read more: Taking selfies could damage your sight, says study


While viewing selfies – both of themselves and others' – had a negative effect on people's happiness, looking at group photos was found to have a very different impact. Researchers found that frequent viewing of group photos was associated with increased life satisfaction and improved self-esteem.

Another researcher on the study, Fan Yang, said that she hoped the findings could raise awareness of the effects of social media use.

“We don't often think about how what we post affects the people around us,” she said. “I think this study can help people understand the potential consequences of their posting behaviour.”

kardashian

Would you feel a drop in life satisfaction after reading Kim Kardashian's book of selfies?

Several studies in recent years have attempted to make sense of the effects of social media on our mental and emotional wellbeing, with varying results. A 2013 study by University of Michigan psychologist Ethan Kross, for example, found that the more time people spent on Facebook, the worse they felt, with their happiness and overall life satisfaction seeing a significant decline.  


Read more: Lucy Mangan deplores the politicians taking selfies at festivals


A body image survey conducted by Today and AOL, in contrast, found that 65% of teenage girls said that posting selfies boosted their confidence. And this September, scientists at the University of California found that students who took a smiling selfie every day for three weeks felt more confident and comfortable in themselves over time.

But Yu Chen, the lead author of the study, was adamant that it wasn’t the act of taking selfies itself that increased the students’ sense of wellbeing. “It is not selfies that make you happy,” she said. “It is smiling that makes you happy.”

Images: Rex Features, RCS

Related

instagram-alcohol-awareness.jpg

This woman is cool, French, Instagram-famous – and an alcoholic

instagram-cry-for-help.jpg

Now Instagram will change how we respond to mental health struggles

beauty mental health.jpg

“How beauty rituals help me manage my depression”

Comments

More

Still on Facebook? It might be because you enjoy judging your friends

Researchers believe we use Facebook to “hate-read” friends and acquaintances

by Moya Crockett
25 Jul 2017

Donald Trump shuts down female reporter in the most disrespectful way

Yet more proof that the president doesn’t care about women

by Megan Murray
25 Jul 2017

The world’s best cocktail bar is officially in London

Boasting botany-inspired cocktails, dreamy interiors and stunning views

by Moya Crockett
25 Jul 2017

The real reason we stay in relationships that are bad for us

It’s time to take off those rose-tinted glasses…

by Megan Murray
25 Jul 2017

This little girl crying over meeting Wonder Woman is unbearably cute

“I think the ability to let yourself cry is what makes you such a warrior.”

by Moya Crockett
25 Jul 2017

Fail your driving test the first time? It might not be your fault

Science says there’s a reason some find it harder to shake their L-plates

by Kayleigh Dray
25 Jul 2017

Game of Thrones finally gave us the feminist sex scene we deserve

Let’s talk Missandei, Grey Worm and eunuch sex

by Kayleigh Dray
25 Jul 2017

What is high-functioning anxiety – and are you suffering from it?

It affects a quarter of young women in the UK alone

by Megan Murray
24 Jul 2017

Quiz: what type of millennial are you?

Because not all millennials are born equal, you know…

by Kayleigh Dray
24 Jul 2017

Everything the Stranger Things 2 trailer reveals about the new series

Still gloriously terrifying and 80s, you’ll be pleased to know

by Amy Swales
24 Jul 2017