New research provides evidence that how people present themselves on Instagram can influence how many “likes” they receive. The study, published in Computers in Human Behavior, found that the use of color-changing filters and stickers tended to negatively impact feedback on selfies.
“Self-presentation is an inevitable topic these days as everyone is using social media. The majority of them use it to seek for attention from other people while they are uploading positive contents to receive more likes,” said study author Seoyeon Hong, an assistant professor at the department of public relations and advertising at Rowan University.
“I find this phenomenon very interesting and wanted to test if their efforts to receive more ‘likes’ is actually working. In my study’s case, those ‘efforts’ were operationalized as using photo filters and applying social cue information.”
Hong and her colleagues gathered and systematically analyzed 1,873 selfies publicly posted on Instagram. About 9 out of 10 selfies were from a female user.
After dividing each photo’s likes by the user’s number of followers, the researchers found that selfies using filters tended to have fewer likes compared to selfies without any filters. On the other hand, selfies taken showing social cues, such as luxury goods, having a fitness center as the background, or displays of one’s professional identity, tended to have more likes.
“The most interesting part of this paper is that excessive self-presentation can backfire. No matter how you try to get more likes, if your efforts seem too obvious, then there is less likelihood for you to get likes. For the social cues (e.g., luxurious bag and fancy occupation), it turns out to be effective while sticker filters are not,” Hong told PsyPost.
“This suggests that tangible information could provide a certain level of trustworthiness, which leads to a higher number of likes. On the other hand, sticker filters are perceived as ‘distorting’ the actual self.”
“Even though sticker filters are proven to be negatively impacting on the number of likes, there are always exceptions. My other study tested if excessive self-presentation is acceptable for influencers (who have many followers or are highly attractive) and the results showed that influencers are the exceptions. Instagram users did not find it annoying if excessive self-presentation was displayed by the influencers,” Hong added.
The study, “Do you filter who you are? : Excessive self-presentation, social cues, and user evaluations of Instagram selfies“, was authored by Seoyeon Hong, Rosie M. Jahng, Namyeon Lee, and Kevin R. Wise.