The impact of posting selfies and gaining feedback (‘likes’) on the psychological wellbeing of 16-25 year olds: An experimental study

Special issue: Health and Technology


Social media, and particularly posting ‘selfies’ have become fully incorporated into young people’s lives. Research indicates that posting selfies may impact upon self esteem and that feedback in the form of ‘likes’ may change how young people feel about themselves. To date, however, most research has been cross sectional or qualitative limiting conclusions about causality. Further, it has taken place in non naturalistic environments, with no longer term follow up and limited outcome variables. This experimental study explored the impact of posting selfies and receiving feedback (‘likes’) on Instagram on broader aspects of the psychological well-being of young people. Participants (n = 59) aged 16-25 were randomly allocated to one of three conditions for a 7-day intervention (no selfie-posting; posting selfies without feedback; posting selfies with feedback) and completed measures at baseline, after the intervention and at one week follow up. ‘Likes’ were delivered through an app. The intervention had no impact on self-esteem or mood. Posting no selfies resulted in a greater improvement in appearance satisfaction over the study compared to posting selfies (regardless of feedback). In contrast, posting selfies with feedback resulted in a greater improvement in face satisfaction during the intervention although this dropped back to baseline by follow up. To conclude the impact of selfies may vary depending upon which outcome variable is measured and when.

Social media; selfies; feedback; self-esteem; appearance satisfaction

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