If you’re worried about your students’ desire to constantly take selfies and share them on social media, you can breathe a sigh of relief. A new study has shown that taking and sharing digital photos can be good for mental health.
The four-week study conducted by researchers at the University of California, Irvine, featured 41 students. They were asked to install a mood measuring app on their phones and report their moods three times a day, also noting any events that may have affected their emotions during that day.
Study subjects were asked to take one of three types of photos. The first was a selfie, which they were to take every day while smiling. The second was an image of something that made the photographer happy. The third was a picture of something the photographer thought would make someone else happy, which was sent to that person.
The study found that taking smiling selfies or photos of things that make people happy and sharing those could improve people’s overall mental health. Taking pictures of things that might make a friend or relative happy and sending it to them also improved the mental health of the person taking the photo.
The researchers collected almost 2,900 mood measurements during that time.
Some participants in the selfie group reported that they became more confident and comfortable with themselves. Students taking pictures of things that made them happy became more reflective and grateful for the good things in their lives. The people who took photos to make others happy said they felt calmer and that the connection to their support groups—friends and family—helped to relieve stress.
“You see a lot of reports in the media about the negative impacts of technology use,” says study senior author and UCI professor of informatics Gloria Mark. “But there have been expanded efforts over the past decade to study what’s become known as ‘positive computing,’ and I think this study shows that sometimes our gadgets can offer benefits to users.”