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Social media lurking makes you feel miserable and worthless

Viewing too many selfies can lead to low self-esteem and decreased life satisfaction, according to a new study

Academia really isn’t into this whole “social media” thing. Over the last 12 months, we’ve seen university studies slamming practically everything related to it. Like this one, which claims that Facebook makes you stressed and miserable. Or this one, which basically says that selfie-takers are a bunch of vain, narcissistic psychopaths. Another study, published back in March, found a clear link between social media use and “morally shallow” behaviour.

Now, as if you needed it, there’s more research to add to that depressing dung pile. According to a new study from Penn State university, looking at too many selfies could actually be making you feel miserable and worthless; lowering your self-esteem and overall life satisfaction.

The research, published in the Telematics and Informatics journal this month, shows that people who ‘lurk’ on social media are putting their mental wellbeing at risk. It claims that participants who frequently viewed other people’s selfies were significantly more likely to suffer from low self-esteem and “decreased life satisfaction”. This feeling was apparently amplified with individuals who had a high need for popularity. 

The study also found that this was strictly limited to people who viewed selfie posts, rather than posted them. “Our results only showed viewing selfies decreased people’s self-esteem,” lead author Ruoxu Wang told Dazed. “Decreased self-esteem led to decreased life satisfaction. The results showed the association between posting selfies and self-esteem was nonsignificant. The association between posting selfies and life satisfaction was also nonsignificant.”

Wang, as well as her co-author Fan Yang, tested 275 people using an online survey. After performing regression analysis and structural equation modelling, they discovered that the problem lay exclusively with respondents who regularly viewed other people’s selfies. Looking at ‘groupie’ shots, however, actually had the opposite effect – with frequent viewers feeling increased life satisfaction and self-esteem.

The report concludes that selfie viewing is an example of “upward social comparison”, and encourages people to compare themselves to others they think are “better” than themselves. It warns that social media users should be “cautious” when posting selfies, as it could be influencing other people’s self-esteem and life satisfaction.

“Our main concern is that many young people are not aware of the potential dangers of using social media because many of them tend to think too positively of their social media behaviors,” added Yang. “It is necessary for them to be aware that using social media can cause negative consequences to their well-being and they need to strategically use these social media to their advantages.”