27 October 2016

Surfing through selfies linked to low self-esteem

It's easy for someone to look at other people's 'happy' pictures and think his or her life is not as great as theirs.

Almost everyone has looked at selfies posted on social media where the people in the photo look deliriously happy and wildly popular. But a new study suggests that some are doing it so much that it may lower their self-esteem.

Desire to appear popular

Penn State researchers conducted an online survey to assess how online viewing of selfies and groupies affected people's mental health.

Read: Woman killed by selfie

The more often people viewed their own or other people's selfies, the lower their self-esteem and life satisfaction was, the investigators found.

"People usually post selfies when they're happy or having fun. This makes it easy for someone else to look at these pictures and think his or her life is not as great as theirs," study co-author Ruoxu Wang, a graduate student in mass communications, said in a university news release.

But the study also found that viewing selfies and groupies on social media boosted levels of self-esteem and life satisfaction among people with a strong desire to appear popular, likely because doing so satisfied their desire to be seen as popular, the researchers suggested.

Read: Love taking selfies? It may spread head lice

The study was published online recently in the Journal of Telematics and Informatics.

Potential consequences

"Most of the research done on social network sites looks at the motivation for posting and liking content, but we're now starting to look at the effect of viewing behaviour," Wang said.

Study co-author Fan Yang added, "I think this study can help people understand the potential consequences of their posting behaviour. This can help counsellors work with students feeling lonely, unpopular, or unsatisfied with their lives."

Yang is also a graduate student in mass communications at Penn State. The researchers worked with Wang's graduate adviser, Michel Haigh, an associate professor in communications at the university.

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