Most of us probably don’t give much thought to how the selfies we post on social network sites like Facebook affect the people who may view them, but it turns out we may not be doing any favors for viewers who are feeling lonely, unpopular, or unsatisfied with their lives.
Frequent viewing of selfies is linked to a decrease in self-esteem and life satisfaction, according to a recent study. In fact, one study at Penn State found that the more often people view their own and others’ selfies, the lower their level of self-esteem and life satisfaction (Wang et al., 2016).
Posting behavior was not found to have significant psychological effects on study participants. But viewing behavior did. And this same negative effect on self-esteem and life satisfaction apparently extends to “groupies,” as well.
Selfie viewing behavior may, of course, include “lurking,” which is when someone is only an observer, but doesn’t participate in posting selfies or officially “liking” someone else’s selfie or groupie. You might think that social media lurking wouldn’t have a significant effect on how humans view themselves, but the study revealed that the exact opposite was true.
“People usually post selfies when they’re happy or having fun,” noted lead study author Ruoxu Wang. “This makes it easy for someone else to look at these pictures and think his or her life is not as great as theirs.”
Researchers also found that participants who were assessed as having a strong desire to appear popular were even more sensitive to selfie and groupie viewing. However, in these cases, selfie and groupie viewing behavior actually increased their self-esteem and life satisfaction, likely, researchers believed, because this social network viewing activity satisfied their desires to appear popular.
Wang, Ruoxu, Yang, Fan, Haigh, Michel M.. Let me take a selfie: Exploring the psychological effects of posting and viewing selfies and groupies on social media. Telematics and Informatics, 2016.