Taking selfies is genuinely good for your mental health, reveal scientists

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Kayleigh Dray
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Scientists have confirmed that taking time out to snap selfies could have a seriously boosting effect on our mental health.

Which is a bit of a surprise, considering how many articles there are about the benefits of digital detoxes, the rampant misogyny present on social media platforms, and the rise of online braggarts.

And let’s not forget that a recent study by University of Michigan psychologist Ethan Kross last year found a direct correlation between time spent on the social media site and feelings of dissatisfaction, loneliness and isolation.

However psychologists at the University of California have now proven once and for all that our obsession with social media may have an upside – when it comes to taking photos of ourselves, at least.

According to the team's results, snapping selfies for Instagram, Snapchat, and the like tends to make us more confident in ourselves, and happier overall. Furthermore, the study's participants got more of a kick from taking pictures of themselves than of objects or of something they thought would make someone else happy.

Their research team decided to put selfies to the test by assessing 41 students (with 28 women taking the majority over the 13 men), watching them go about their daily routines for four weeks.

During the initial testing process, the participants were asked to note down their mood three times every day, along with a specific time or event that had affected this mood.

For the final three weeks of the study, students were asked to take photos when they noted down their emotional state at that time.

However they were given specific instructions as to what to snap.

Researchers split the test subjects into three separate groups, asking one to take a smiley selfie, and one to snap a photo of a place or object.

The third group were instructed to take a photo of something that would make someone else happy, before sending it on to that person.

It seems as if human beings require just a teeny dose of narcissism more than anything else, as those who took selfies proved to be happier and more assured of themselves overall.

The results coincide with another recent study which showed that receiving personalised comments on pictures and social media posts are good for our emotional wellbeing.

Speaking with Eurekalert about the study, Moira Burke – a research scientist specialising in human-computer interaction – explained that the comments don’t even have to be long, they just have to be tailored to suit the person reading them.

“We're not talking about anything that's particularly labour-intensive,” she said. “This can be a comment that's just a sentence or two.

“The important thing is that someone such as a close friend takes the time to personalize it.

"The content may be uplifting, and the mere act of communication reminds recipients of the meaningful relationships in their lives."


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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.