It’s not at all uncommon to judge selfie-obsessed friends on social media as attention addicts. But are they really dependent on likes and comments for their self-esteem, or are they confident enough to just really enjoy expressing themselves?
Everybody posts selfies for different reasons, but new research shows that not everyone who does it struggles with insecurity and narcissism. A study conducted by researchers at the University of California, Irvine found that selfie-taking is linked to living a happier life — among college students at least.
For the study, 41 college students were first asked to fill out a questionnaire and then go about their daily lives during the first control week period while they documented their mood. After the one-week control period, subjects were then asked to take photos using different photo apps while continuing to record their mood over the following three weeks.
Subjects recorded their mood three times a day and made notes on anything that may have happened during the day to affect their emotions. They were also randomly assigned to take just one of three different types of photos once a day over the the three-week period: a smiling selfie, a photo of something that made the subject happy or a photo that the subject thought would make a friend happy by sending it to them.
Once the 2,900 mood measurements collected over the four-week study period were analyzed, the researchers found that on average, all three types of photos resulted in positive mood states. More specifically, here’s how each photo type influenced the subjects:
- Subjects who were assigned to take a daily selfie reportedly felt like they became more comfortable and confident with their appearances as they continued snapping more selfies each day.
- Subjects who were assigned to photos of anything that made them happy reportedly felt like they became more reflective and appreciative as they took more photos.
- Subjects who were assigned to take photos that they thought would make a friend happy by sending it to them reportedly felt more connected to their friends.
Out of the 14 subjects who were assigned to take selfies, five of the subjects exhibited changes in their smiles that appeared to look more natural over time. Enhanced creativity was another interesting side effect of their selfie-taking. Four of the selfie-taking subjects, however, reported that taking a daily selfie was stressful. But overall, the results were definitely more positive than negative.
With just 41 subjects and only 14 selfie-takers involving only college students, this is clearly too small of a study to conclude that selfie-taking is usually a positive thing. Previous research found that men in particular who post selfies exhibit more narcissistic traits — proving that the motivation behind selfie-taking can definitely swing both ways.
Regarding the group that was assigned to take photos of things that made them happy, which made them reflect and appreciate those things more, another related study found that subjects who took photos of their experiences boosted happiness by causing them to become more engaged with their surroundings. This is right in line with the reflective, appreciative effect observed in the University of California study.
Like any study that claims something specific, it’s always important to make sure we all take it with a grain of salt and go by personal experience. If you like taking selfies or photos of anything and it makes you happy, then go ahead and keep taking them. If they stress you out or you rely on the interaction you get from posting on Facebook or Instagram to boost your self-esteem, perhaps it’s time to take a step back and explore healthier ways to become happier.
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