Your Favourite Instagram Filter Says A Lot About Your Mental Health

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by Emily Pritchard |
Published on

What does your Instagram feed say about you? Gym bunny with a perfect tummy; avocado queen and champion of a clean eating hashtag? Or maybe you're more likely to be found bar side than barre side, snapping clusters of cocktails and a girl squad selfie.

But as new research finds, the subject of your photos is just the tip of the iceberg. Indeed, the very filter you prefer could be an indicator of depression in Instagram users.

In a study of 166 volunteers, Harvard and Vermont University researchers analysed 43,950 photographs posted to the social media site. By monitoring factors like hue, brightness and saturation, the scientists were able to establish a clear link between the prominent colours in a participant's pictures, and the state of that user’s mental health.

Their findings? Well, for those rendering their curated life in chic black and white, it's bad news- predominantly grey, blue and 'dark' photos are more likely to be favoured by those who self-identify as suffering with poor mental health, with Inkwell filter found to be the most popular amongst depressed Instagram users. Interestingly, depressed participants were 'less likely to apply Instagram filters to their posted photos'. Healthy volunteers, however, were disproportionately likely to favour the lightening, brightening effects of Valencia, which may do terrible things to your tan, but certainly adds a touch of the Costa Del Sol to Shoreditch on a Saturday afternoon.

And that's not all- 'algorithmic face detection' (that's looking at how many people are in each photo) investigated further correlation between participants' mental health and their posts' contents. Depressed users posted more photos with faces, but there were fewer faces, generally, per photo, perhaps, according to the paper, an indication that those suffering from depression 'interact in smaller social settings'.

So, if you know what you're looking for, it turns out there's a lot more in last night's post than how your attempt at a signature bake turned out. Seems there's something to be said for seeing the world through a rose-tinted filter...

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