Effects of Images in Social Media on Life Satisfaction

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University of Alabama Libraries

Social media use is known to impact a variety of psychological constructs. One of the most used social media platforms is Instagram. Previous studies have investigated the relationship between social media use and psychological well-being, including life satisfaction. Only a small amount of the literature assesses the causal relationship between the profiles that users see and their well-being. In this experimental study, 163 undergraduate student participants viewed 12 Instagram profiles and answered questions about their life satisfaction. Based on pilot data, profiles were categorized as portraying high or low life satisfaction. Participants were randomly assigned to one of three conditions that differed with respect to the frequency of the two types of profiles: 1) 0 high-life-satisfaction profiles, 2) 6 high-life-satisfaction profiles, and 3) 12 high-life-satisfaction profiles. We predicted that the more high-life-satisfaction profiles a person saw, the lower their life satisfaction would be. We did not find significant differences between the three groups, and thus we do not have evidence for a causal relationship between the well-being portrayed in profiles and the well-being of users. Because our study was powered to detect an effect of .2, our results are consistent with a null or small effect. Further research is needed in order to determine the connection between Instagram profile content and its impact on psychological well-being.

Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Instagram, life-satisfaction, Social media, Well-being