Social Media

21 Things Science Says Your Facebook and Instagram Feeds Reveal About You

Social media affects nearly every aspect of our lives.
21 Things Science Says Your Facebook and Instagram Feeds Reveal About You
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9 min read

This article originally published Aug. 24, 2017. 

What you post online and how you use social platforms such as Facebook and Instagram can say a lot about you.

In fact, a number of studies have revealed social media's connection to a person's mental health, well-being, intellectual capacity and more. And while social platforms have helped make the world more connected, they've created new challenges. For example, recent research found that people who frequently browse Instagram are more likely to shows signs of depression than others. Another study found that people who identify their religion on Facebook tend to use more positive language on the platform.

Related: Easy Ways to Start Developing Your Personal Brand on Social Media

From emotions to religion to diet -- social media is affecting nearly every aspect of our lives, and your Facebook and Instagram feeds reveal a lot more about you than you probably think.

Here are 20 things your social media feeds say about you, according to research.

21 Things Science Says Your Facebook and Instagram Feeds Reveal About You

Your 'perceived audience' can cause you to censor yourself.

Your 'perceived audience' can cause you to censor yourself.
Image credit: Nazar Abbas Photography | Getty Images

Many of us think before we speak to express ourselves clearly, avoid offending others and present a curated version of ourselves. The same is true on social media, based on research into drafted or self-censored Facebook posts and comments.

Researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and Facebook examined data of more than 3.9 million Facebook users over a 17-day period, and they found that 71 percent of them self-censored at least one post or comment they’d drafted during that time. People are most likely to change their mind about what they’ve typed up at the last minute when what they’ve prepared was meant for a specific group audience. The researchers also found that males are more likely to censor their own Facebook posts, especially when most of the their Facebook friends are also male. However, males and females in the study were equally likely to censor comments on posts (13 percent of the time).

21 Things Science Says Your Facebook and Instagram Feeds Reveal About You

People with depression post more frequently on Instagram.

People with depression post more frequently on Instagram.
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How often you post on Instagram can be an indicator of your mental health. Using a computer program, researchers from Harvard and Vermont universities analyzed more than 43,000 Instagram posts from 166 users to uncover how people with depression use the app. Turns out, users with depression posted more frequently than those who did not have mental health issues. They also had more faces in their photos and were less likely to use filters.
21 Things Science Says Your Facebook and Instagram Feeds Reveal About You

You’ll be unhappy if you spend too much time on social media apps.

You’ll be unhappy if you spend too much time on social media apps.
Image credit: Plume Creative | Getty Images
Spending too much time on social media can be toxic. In fact, by limiting the amount of time you spend on them, you'll be more satisfied with your experience. Social media app Moment collected data from people's usage on social apps, discovering that there's a happiness breaking point for each platform. For Facebook, spending longer than 23 minutes can result in an unhappy experience and for Instagram, the threshold is 31 minutes.
21 Things Science Says Your Facebook and Instagram Feeds Reveal About You

Social media can skew your memories.

Social media can skew your memories.
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When it comes to social media, you want to put yourself in a positive light. That means publishing happy photos and sharing good times -- typically through a filter. And while social media seems like a great place to store your memories so you can go back and recall them later -- that may not be the case. One study found that because people post mostly positive items on social media, when they look back at their photos, they are recalling false "happy" memories that actually skew significant events with inaccurate portrayals.

Related: How to Be More Productive on Social Media

21 Things Science Says Your Facebook and Instagram Feeds Reveal About You

Your religious affiliation influences the language you use on Facebook.

Your religious affiliation influences the language you use on Facebook.
Image credit: Cecilie_Arcurs | Getty Images
A recent study analyzed the language of more than 12,800 Facebook users who identify their religious affiliations on their profiles. Turns out, religious individuals use more positive emotion words and discuss social themes such as family, while people who do not identify their religion use more negative language to express emotions such as anger and more often discuss topics such as the human body and death.
21 Things Science Says Your Facebook and Instagram Feeds Reveal About You

The more time you spend on social media, the more likely you are to feel isolated.

The more time you spend on social media, the more likely you are to feel isolated.
Image credit: martin-dm | Getty Images

Today, social isolation is becoming a larger epidemic than obesity in America. And a contributing factor to this is social media. While many might think social media helps people feel more connected and build relationships, it can actually do the opposite. A recent study found that people who spend more than two hours a day on social media have twice the odds of feeling socially isolated than those who spend less than two hours.

21 Things Science Says Your Facebook and Instagram Feeds Reveal About You

Having a lot of "friends" on social media doesn’t make you more social.

Having a lot of "friends" on social media doesn’t make you more social.
Image credit: Alexandra Iakovleva | Getty Images
Thousands of Instagram followers doesn't translate into thousands of real friends and an active social life. One study found that the more friends you have doesn't mean you're more social, and that there's in fact a limit to the number of friends a person's brain can handle. Virtual friends don't translate into real friends, and building and maintaining friendships requires actual social interaction.
21 Things Science Says Your Facebook and Instagram Feeds Reveal About You

People who post a lot about their romantic partner on Facebook are more likely to have low self-esteem.

People who post a lot about their romantic partner on Facebook are more likely to have low self-esteem.
Image credit: Hero Images | Getty Images
Your Facebook status updates can reveal a lot about your true self. By collecting data from 555 Facebook users, one study found that people with low self-esteem tend to post more frequently about their current romantic partner. Not only that, but people who the study identified as "narcissists" posted most about their diet and exercise routines.
21 Things Science Says Your Facebook and Instagram Feeds Reveal About You

Just looking at the Facebook logo can make you crave visiting the social network.

Just looking at the Facebook logo can make you crave visiting the social network.
Image credit: Facebook
Like foods and substances, social media also has an addictive component to it. In fact, a recent study found that simply seeing the Facebook logo triggers a craving to use the social platform -- whether they are frequent or infrequent users.
21 Things Science Says Your Facebook and Instagram Feeds Reveal About You

Too much social media can disrupt your sleep.

Too much social media can disrupt your sleep.
Image credit: torwai | Getty Images

Today, with today's technology at our beck-and-call, it can be difficult to get a good night's rest. Social media platforms can disturb your sleep. One study found that one in five young people wake up regularly throughout the night to check or send messages on social media. Another study, where 1,788 U.S. adults answered questionnaires about their sleeping and social media habits, discovered that people who claimed to have high levels of sleep disturbance were people who obsessively checked their social media accounts.

Related: 8 Tips for Building Your Personal Brand in 2017

21 Things Science Says Your Facebook and Instagram Feeds Reveal About You

You have different personas for each platform.

You have different personas for each platform.
Image credit: Yuri_Arcurs | Getty Images
A recent study found that people change their online image and persona depending on the platform they are on. Users consider each platform a different "world," and portray themselves differently on each.
21 Things Science Says Your Facebook and Instagram Feeds Reveal About You

Users under 25 are less likely to smile in their profile pictures.

Users under 25 are less likely to smile in their profile pictures.
Image credit: Guido Mieth | Getty Images
Whether they're trying to play the "cool kid" or simply had a bad day, recent research found that social media users under 25-years-old are less likely to smile in their profile pictures. The research also found that women are less likely to wear corrective eyewear such as glasses in their pictures, as compared to men.
21 Things Science Says Your Facebook and Instagram Feeds Reveal About You

Texting and being on social media too much can turn you into a jerk.

Texting and being on social media too much can turn you into a jerk.
Image credit: Astarot | Getty Images
From an overabundance of selfies to Twitter rants -- it can be easy to accidentally portray yourself as a narcissist or even a jerk online. However, it's more than just the pictures and text. Research suggests that obsessively texting and checking social media can not only make you look like a jerk, but turn you into one as well. Constantly being on social media leads people to make snap judgments and become concerned with superficial matters, ultimately causing people to be "more shallow and less moral."
21 Things Science Says Your Facebook and Instagram Feeds Reveal About You

Emotions on Facebook are contagious.

Emotions on Facebook are contagious.
Image credit: martin-dm | Getty Images
Whether someone is having a bad day or just received the greatest news ever, people turn to Facebook to express their emotions. And while they are only speaking for themselves, eventually their feelings of happiness or sadness may catch up with their friends. Research shows that emotions expressed online are highly contagious, and what you post on your Facebook can have an effect on your friends and followers' emotions too.
21 Things Science Says Your Facebook and Instagram Feeds Reveal About You

Getting more Facebook “likes” won’t make you feel good.

Getting more Facebook “likes” won’t make you feel good.
Image credit: Hiroshi Watanabe | Getty Images
While many would think Facebook "likes" would boost self-esteem and make people feel good, it turns out that's not necessarily true. A recent study found that getting attention on social media in the form of likes doesn't boost a person's mood.
21 Things Science Says Your Facebook and Instagram Feeds Reveal About You

Posting “food porn” on Instagram can help you lose weight.

Posting “food porn” on Instagram can help you lose weight.
Image credit: Alexandra Iakovleva | Getty Images

If you're looking to drop a few pounds, try posting a few shots of your favorite food. While you might think this would have the opposite effect and in fact trigger weight gain, a recent study found that people who post images of their food or recipes are more prone to eating healthy and even losing weight.

Related: 5 Mistakes to Avoid When Picking Your Social-Media Profile Photo

21 Things Science Says Your Facebook and Instagram Feeds Reveal About You

Facebook can make you jealous of your friends.

Facebook can make you jealous of your friends.
Image credit: James Whitaker | Getty Images
There's no doubt that social media makes people compare themselves to others, which can often impact a person's well-being. Research found that Facebook users often feel envy when they see their friends posting fun and interesting photos. This often leads users to fancying up their own profiles in response.
21 Things Science Says Your Facebook and Instagram Feeds Reveal About You

There are three different types of selfie takers.

There are three different types of selfie takers.
Image credit: Maskot | Getty Images
While selfies might be associated with ego and narcissism, that's not necessarily true. Recent studies found that there are three different types of selfie takers: communicators, autobiographers and self-publicists. "Communicators" publish selfies to spark a conversation with followers, for example someone posting an image of themselves with an "I voted" sticker. "Autobiographers" take selfies to document events in their lives to preserve special moments. The "self publicists" (think the Kardashians) document their entire lives in an attempt to make themselves look positive.
21 Things Science Says Your Facebook and Instagram Feeds Reveal About You

Too many selfies can negatively impact relationships.

Too many selfies can negatively impact relationships.
Image credit: Hero Images | Getty Images
Everyone posts selfies for their own reasons, however, we've all got those certain friends who go a little overboard. One study found that when people post selfies too often, they risk negatively affecting their relationships with some of their followers.
21 Things Science Says Your Facebook and Instagram Feeds Reveal About You

Following too many strangers can make you depressed.

Following too many strangers can make you depressed.
Image credit: Matias Castello | EyeEm | Getty Images
Don't feel guilty about following your favorite celebrity or idol on social media, but following too many people you don't know has negative repercussions. Research found that people who follow more strangers are more prone to social comparisons and depressive symptoms, compared to those who follow fewer strangers.
21 Things Science Says Your Facebook and Instagram Feeds Reveal About You

Users who engage and tag more people in their images are less prone to loneliness.

Users who engage and tag more people in their images are less prone to loneliness.
Image credit: Nora Carol Photography | Getty Images
Posting images that are not meant to spark conversation or are not directed towards anyone, which is identified as "Instagram broadcasting," is connected to higher levels of loneliness, according to research. People are less lonely when they use the platform to tag people, socialize and interact.
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  • 21 Things Science Says Your Facebook and Instagram Feeds Reveal About You
  • Your 'perceived audience' can cause you to censor yourself.
  • People with depression post more frequently on Instagram.
  • You’ll be unhappy if you spend too much time on social media apps.
  • Social media can skew your memories.
  • Your religious affiliation influences the language you use on Facebook.
  • The more time you spend on social media, the more likely you are to feel isolated.
  • Having a lot of "friends" on social media doesn’t make you more social.
  • People who post a lot about their romantic partner on Facebook are more likely to have low self-esteem.
  • Just looking at the Facebook logo can make you crave visiting the social network.
  • Too much social media can disrupt your sleep.
  • You have different personas for each platform.
  • Users under 25 are less likely to smile in their profile pictures.
  • Texting and being on social media too much can turn you into a jerk.
  • Emotions on Facebook are contagious.
  • Getting more Facebook “likes” won’t make you feel good.
  • Posting “food porn” on Instagram can help you lose weight.
  • Facebook can make you jealous of your friends.
  • There are three different types of selfie takers.
  • Too many selfies can negatively impact relationships.
  • Following too many strangers can make you depressed.
  • Users who engage and tag more people in their images are less prone to loneliness.
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