If you ask a few people how they feel about Instagram it’s likely that you’ll get some sort of “can’t live without it” answer. You might also get a response that has something to do with how wrong it is to be as obsessed with social media as we are. You might even get both responses from the same person (the irony is not lost on us). Certainly, both answers have merit.
There’s no doubt that social media has opened up the world considerably with the access to information and movements and the ability to stay in touch with people you’d otherwise never talk to. However, it’s (very) possible to get over stimulated, addicted, or fall into a warped sense of reality. So, what does science have to say about it?
It’s true that there are some studies out there suggesting that behaviors such as taking selfies aren’t really going to make you happy. But, on the flip side, there is one study that was published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology that found that taking photos does actually make you happy. This is great news! Well, at least for those of us that love taking photos. Next time you whip out your camera (aka your phone) and someone rolls their eyes about living in the moment you can hit them with the facts.
To test this concept out, the researchers utilized three different fields and six different lab experiments to gather their data. They found that across different contexts and methodologies taking pictures just simply makes people happier as it can increase a person’s engagement in the experience that they’re a part of at the time. You know how bonding those silly group photos can be? That’s what we’re talking about.
Researcher, Kristin Diehl, an associate professor of marketing at the University of Southern California Marshall School of Business explained:
You hear that you shouldn’t take all these photos and interrupt the experience, and it’s bad for you, and we’re not living in the present moment. What we find is you actually look at the world slightly differently, because you’re looking for things you want to capture, that you may want to hang onto. That gets people more engaged in the experience, and they tend to enjoy it more.
The only circumstances where taking photos does not make people happy is when it interferes with the activity at hand. Namely, hose moments where you’re so engaged in something that taking a photo would simply take you away from it or break your concentration. Of course, what those moments are is probably a bit subjective since people have different interests, to begin with (and some people like taking photos more than others.)
If you want to get the experience without actually having your phone out all the time, you can always pretend. Kristin added that “If you want to take mental photos, that works the same way. Thinking about what you would want to photograph also gets you more engaged.” Although, if someone asks why you weren’t listening it’s a little harder to explain that you were focusing on taking a pretend photo of your lunch then simply just doing it. Of course, moderation is key. Taking one or two photos of a concert (for example) is an awesome way to preserve the memory, but it’s pretty difficult to be present when you’re snapping the entire thing. Know what I mean?