Feeling down? Dissatisfied?
You may only have yourself – and selfies – to blame, according to a new study by researchers at Penn State University’s School of Communications.
Frequent viewing of “selfies”– self portraits taken with a smartphone or digital camera – that have been posted on social media sites such as Facebook is linked to decreased self-esteem and life satisfaction, the study found.
A drunken Australian university student is credited with coining the term “selfie” in 2002 when he posted a photo of his bruised, swollen lips after he fell at a friend’s 21st birthday party. However, most people usually post selfies when they’re happy or having fun … and, yes, sometimes when they’re drunk.
Someone frequently viewing photos of smiling faces and giddy expressions may question why they aren’t having as good a time as those people. And that can lead to decreased self-esteem and life satisfaction, said Ruoxu Wang, lead author of the study “Let Me Take a Selfie: Exploring the Psychological Effects of Posting and Viewing Selfies and Groupies on Social Media.”
“It’s upward social comparison, a very classic psychological phenomena,” the graduate student in mass communications said.
Published in the most recent online edition of the Journal of Telematics and Informatics, the study conversely found that frequent viewing of group portraits, or “groupies,” resulted in increased self-esteem and life satisfaction.
“It is probably because when people view groupies on social media, they feel a sense of community as the groupies they view may also contain themselves,” according to the study, which was conducted via an online survey of 275 people in the United States.
And, the researchers found, even more positively affected by frequent viewing of selfies and groupies are people who have a strong need for popularity, likely because the activity satisfies that desire.
“Originally, we thought posting selfies may influence self-esteem but we found out that it’s viewing behavior, and not posting, that has an effect,” said Wang, whose co-authors were fellow graduate student Fan Yang and associate professor Michel Haigh.
Posting selfies and groupies did not have significant psychological effects for participants in the study, the researchers were surprised to learn.
“From the study, we found that when you’re posting on social media you should be aware that your behavior affects others psychologically,” Wang said.