Cityvisitor blog

Need cheering up: take a look at your own Facebook pictures

It seems that looking through your own Facebook pictures could be a good thing for your mental well-being.

An article in The Independent online this week says that researchers at the University of Portsmouth have found that trawling through your own Facebook pictures could indeed be good for your mental health.

I can see why this may be the case: it’s usually only happy/good pictures that are posted on the social networking site, so it stands to reason that they will make you feel good.

A study by Dr Alice Good has suggested that nearly 90% of Facebook users look at their own wall posts and three quarters take a look at their own photographs when feeling down.

The article reports that Dr Good says this “self-soothing” use of Facebook is good for the user’s mood, especially if they are someone prone to feeling down.

Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg in 2004.  The site has become a global sensation and recently celebrated one billion active monthly users.

The survey, which looked at 144 users, discovered that people often use Facebook to reminisce, looking at old photos and wall posts to get comfort.

People with mental health issues were especially comforted by the site, it found.

“The results indicate we could use self-soothing as a form of treatment for low moods,” said Dr Good.

“We were very surprised by these findings, which contradict some recent reports.

“Although this was only a small study, we will go on to study larger groups to see if the results remain consistent.”

The study concludes that looking through comforting photos, which is known as “reminiscent therapy”, could be effective in treating mental health.

Reminiscent therapy is already widely thought to help older people experiencing memory problems.

Using old photos, films and items can assist people experiencing short-term memory loss to feel comforted by things that are familiar to them.

This recent study demonstrates that it may also be an effective way to treat people with anxiety or depression.

Dr Clare Wilson, a psychologist at the University of Portsmouth, said: “Although this is a pilot study, these findings are fascinating.

“Facebook is marketed as a means of communicating with others. Yet this research shows we are more likely to use it to connect with our past selves, perhaps when our present selves need reassuring.

“The pictures we often post are reminders of a positive past event. When in the grip of a negative mood, it is too easy to forget how good we often feel. Our positive posts can remind us of this.”

The study, which is published in Lecture Notes in Computer Science: Universal Access in Human-Computer Interaction, belongs to a bigger research project looking at how wellbeing can be supported by applications.

Next time I am feeling a little low I know what to do: look at my Facebook pictures!  If you don’t have Facebook I am sure that the same applies to old photographs, either on the computer or in a good old photograph album – now those were happy days.  There’s nothing like an old Polaroid to put a smile on your face.


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