Could Your Social Media Use Predict Depression?


Woman Looking Out WindowIt turns out that your social media habit may be a good indicator of your mental health. Don’t worry, there are no definitive links between social media usage and depression, so you can continue to tweet, Snapchat and share funny memes on Facebook to your heart’s delight. However, people who use Instagram may be interested to know that the types of filters they choose may signal depression.

Understanding Instagram Filters

Instagram users have a multitude of filters to choose from when uploading photos. Whether you’re posting a pic of a particularly tasty meal, a scene from your latest adventure or a gathering with friends, you’ll likely apply a filter before you post your photo. Instagram filters can change the light, tone and texture of an image, which means that even the most artful Instagrammer can select customized settings to carefully curate their picture.

Does This Filter Make Me Look Sad?

Researchers from Harvard University and the University of Vermont conducted a study examining the connection between depression and Instagram. The study involved 166 volunteers completing a clinical depression survey as well as self-reporting their history of depression. Researchers then analyzed the volunteers’ 43,950 Instagram photos for quantitative measures of color and brightness. They also conducted more subjective measures of happiness, sadness and likability.

It should come as no surprise that depressed people prefer less colorful hues. A grayer palette may more closely reflect their emotional experience.

The Instagram Blues

Interestingly, the study found a link between mood and color. Participants who were depressed tended to apply filters to their pictures that made the images grayer, bluer and darker, essentially draining the color out of the picture. What’s more, the researchers were able to determine depression before a participant had even gotten a diagnosis or received treatment for the mood disorder.