A new study found that people who actively share selfies on Instagram may have a higher satisfaction with life. The findings, published in Human Behavior and Emerging Technologies, correlated people’s happiness with receiving immediate social rewards such as likes and positive comments.
“Social media technology has become a key influencer of psychological aspects of human emotions, such as well-being… Past research has revealed mixed findings relating to the relationship between the use of [Social Networking Sites] and well-being,” said author Julie Maclean and colleagues.
The study advertised a survey on several social media platforms, which asked questions such as photo-sharing history on Instagram and the user’s overall well-being. In this study, well-being was defined as how much a person believes they are happy with their life.
Overall, 373 responses were collected from users who actively share photos on Instagram; 22.6% of responses were from men and 77.1% were from women. One person declined to provide gender information. About 73% of respondents were younger than 25-years-old, which the authors said aligned with Instagram’s user demographics.
Results showed a positive link between the number of selfies shared online and a person’s well-being. This association was not seen in pictures that were anything but the user’s face. Greater life satisfaction was also seen in people who received positive social rewards such as likes and positive comments on their selfies. In addition, happiness was linked to a selfie that had received a lot of likes and positive comments.
Well-being did not decline when a person’s photo had negative comments and/or few likes. Based on the results, the authors conclude that positive and negative social rewards influence a person’s well-being differently.
The authors acknowledged several study limitations. Responses were collected only from users who actively shared photos. This excluded video-sharing users or users who passively post photos. Additionally, photo-sharing history was self-reported, which could have led some users to incorrectly recall information. Despite the limitations, the authors suggest that the data could help improve future developments for social media platforms.
“Future [Social Networking Sites] technology enhancements should leverage the social rewards concept to allow increased levels of online interactions from photo sharing, particularly in relation to sharing photos of oneself, which seem to correlate with the highest levels of social rewards.”
The study “Instagram photo sharing and its relationships with social rewards and well-being”, was authored by Julie Maclean, Yeslam Al-Saggaf, and Rachel Hogg.