Science Says People Who Take Selfies Are Happier Than People Who Don’t

Make sure you’re smiling.

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Ever start feeling yourself after taking a couple of selfies? Well, you’re not the only one. According to a study recently published in Psychology of Well-Being, selfies can actually make people feel confident and happy—provided they take them when smiling.

“Our research showed that practicing exercises that can promote happiness via smartphone picture taking and sharing can lead to increased positive feelings for those who engage in it,” said lead author and informatics scholar Yu Chen. “This is particularly useful information for returning college students to be aware of, since they face many sources of pressure.”

Using smartphone photo technology, researchers in the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences at the University of California-Irvine asked 41 students to take selfies over the course of a month. Students were randomly divided into three groups. One group was asked to take daily selfies while smiling; the second group took pictures of something that made them happy; and the third group took pictures of something they thought would make someone else happy, which they then shared with that person. 

Researchers collected 2,897 mood measures—comfortable, reflective, and appreciative—and measured students’ emotional states over time. They found that students in all groups experienced increased good feelings. The selfie group was reported to feel more confident and comfortable over the course of the study, and those who took images to make other people happy felt happy themselves, noting the personal connection helped relieve stress.

“You see a lot of reports in the media about the negative impacts of technology use, and we look very carefully at these issues here at UCI,” said  Gloria Mark, senior author and informatics professor. “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.”

So go ahead, smile, and selfie away!

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You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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