Mental Health

#NoFilter: How Posting Too Many Instagram Selfies Could Ruin Your Love Life

Woman taking selfie
Uploading too many selfies onto Instagram may ruin your relationship by alienating your partner. melycgcg, CC BY 2.0

“Selfie” isn’t just the word of the year, or one of the most popular hashtags on Instagram, it could also be the root of your relationship troubles. According to a recent study published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, posting too many Instagram selfies to promote positive body image can increase the likelihood of ruining your romantic relationships over jealousy.

Previous research suggests people addicted to posting selfies report less intimacy and emotional support in their relationships. Social media connections who are not close friends or relatives don’t seem to respond as well to people who constantly share photos of themselves. For example, you may have umpteen Facebook friends who are partners, friends, family, colleagues, and acquaintances. Each type of connection might view your selfie posting from a different perspective. Your current best friend may see your selfie posting in a different light than would an acquaintance from high school who hasn’t seen you in years and with whom you only have a surface-level relationship.

Jessica Ridgway and Russell Clayton, researchers at Florida State University, sought to examine the tell-tale signs and consequences linked to Instagram selfie posting and how excessively posting Instagram selfies can affect romantic relationships. A total of 420 Instagram users, between the ages of 18 and 62, completed an online survey questionnaire. Participants were asked to provide information on the number of selfies they posted, their feelings about themselves after, and the current state of their relationships.

The findings revealed Instagram users who were more satisfied with their body image posted more selfies, but also experienced greater conflict with their romantic partners. Unsurprisingly, when the approval for their selfies was high, so was their personal satisfaction, and vice versa when approval was low. This can create Instagram-related drama, like dealing with online trolls, and lead to a negative impact on romantic relationships.

“When Instagram users promote their body image satisfaction in the form of Instagram selfie posts, risk of Instagram-related conflict and negative romantic relationship outcomes might ensue,” wrote the study’s authors..

These conflicts tended to revolve around jealous arguments and concerns about the attention the selfies were drawing from others. Partners of the selfie posters were more likely to spend an excessive amount of time checking likes and comments on their partners’ statuses and social media activity. With conflicts, there was an increase in negative romantic relationship outcomes, defined as emotional or physical infidelity, breakup, and divorce.

In addition, selfie posters , like their partners, reported less relationship satisfaction, despite finding gratification in their selfie-taking behaviors.

The act of taking too many selfies is believed to put into question a selfie poster’s faithfulness. Selfies are seen as attention-seeking behavior, associated with personality traits like narcissism and psychopathy. People with these personality traits tend to have poor relationships with others because they are self-absorbed and act manipulative toward their partners. Social media use and narcissism is a lethal combination for romantic relationships, according to a 2015 study.

It’s unclear whether excessive selfie-taking is the direct cause of relationship problems, or if it's just a symptom associated with personality tendencies, like narcissism. However, researchers know heavy social media use and engaging in self-absorbed behaviors does more harm than good in romantic situations.

Remember, think twice about “doing it for the Gram” — “do it for the relationship” instead.

Sources: Ridgway JL and Clayton RB. Instagram Unfiltered: Exploring Associations of Body Image Satisfaction, Instagram #Selfie Posting, and Negative Romantic Relationship Outcomes. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking . 2016.

Lavner JA, Lamkin J, Miller JD et al. Narcissism and Newlywed Marriage: Partner Characteristics and Marital Trajectories. Personality Disorders . 2015.

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