News flash (or maybe advice, if you often worry about what others think of you): posting selfies on Instagram, apparently, makes you seem insecure and unlikeable.
A new study published in the Journal of Research in Personality pored over hundreds of Instagram posts to see which photos elicited which snap judgments from strangers about other users’ personalities. Turns out a picture really is worth a thousand words, and they’re all bad.
Watch: Selfies are less attractive than “posies.” Story continues below.
The verdict of the study was that people who post more selfies, as opposed to photographs that others have taken of them (“posies”), are perceived to be less likeable, less adventurous, less outgoing, less dependable, less successful, less confident, and, if that wasn’t enough, more likely to be a bad friend.
To be clear, though, it’s not your face people don’t like, just the fact that you like your face enough to share it. “Even when two feeds had similar content, such as depictions of achievement or travel, feelings about the person who posted selfies were negative and feelings about the person who posted posies were positive,” Chris Barry, a psychology professor at Washington State University and the lead author of the study, said in a news release.
“It shows there are certain visual cues, independent of context, that elicit either a positive or negative response on social media.”
For the study, Barry worked alongside WSU psychology students, as well as researchers from the University of Southern Mississippi, to analyze data from two groups of students.
The first group — 30 undergraduates from a southern university — was asked to complete a personality questionnaire, and allowed researchers to use their 30 most recent Instagram posts for the experiment.
The second group — 119 undergraduates, from a university in the northwestern States — was asked to rate those profiles on 13 attributes, including self-absorption, low self-esteem, and success. The judgments were based solely on the images provided.
And though viewers weren’t given any further information about the profiles they were judging, there was still a correlation between bad ratings and accounts with more followers.
How certain fundamental things were measured — say, the criteria for success or lack thereof, or what makes someone a “good friend” — are mostly unclear. Also, the feelings were based on a rating system of “snap judgments,” meaning there was no ensuing reflection on why the participants felt the selfie-posters were insecure, or not successful, or potentially bad friends.
Barry had originally tried to find a relationship between narcissism and posting selfies. When that proved inconclusive, he decided to check out the perception of those selfies. What other people thought.
It’s a funny trade-off. While the study might be focusing on how people are being perceived, we might be learning more about the judges than the judged.
With that being said, there’s no shortage of research illustrating the effect that social media has on our self-esteem and how it can produce feelings of insecurity. It’s been linked with higher levels of loneliness, envy, anxiety and depression (among other things).
The insecurity thing isn’t weird. Instagram is built to evoke jealousy. It’s hard to imagine feeling content when constantly confronted with the seemingly perfect lives of the rich, the famous, and the stylish.
And it’s not as though people who take selfies are uniquely burdened. Lots of people get insecure. And there are a bunch of things you can do to boost your self-esteem should you feel that way, from acknowledging that you have those insecurities (it’s fine) to using them as points of motivation.
Posting selfies obviously doesn’t make you insecure, or unlikeable, or a bad friend, or any of the other things people decide when looking at your social media. There are very few ways to look at your own face, anyway, and a selfie is one of them, so there’s nothing to feel ridiculous about when posting them.