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Depressed? Your Instagram photos might give away your mood

Are your Instagram photos shedding light on your

Are your Instagram photos shedding light on your psychological well-being? Photo Credit: AP / Mark Lennihan

If you’ve ever paused to reflect on the moody, filtered shots of a friend’s Instagram feed and wondered if you should reach out, a new study may confirm your worries.

Researchers Andrew Reece of Harvard University and Chris Danforth of the University of Vermont collected survey information and Instagram photos from 166 volunteers recruited through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, which pays people small amounts to perform tasks.

Each participant was asked to complete a standardized clinical depression survey to assess depression level, answer demographic questions and share information about their use of social media including their Instagram usernames. The researchers then analyzed the photos for quantitative measures of colors, brightness and faces, as well more subjective assessments of happiness, sadness, likability and “interestingness.”

The key finding in the study has to do with the curious relationship between mood and color. It turned out increased hue, with decreased brightness and saturation, appeared to predict depression. Hue refers to the place on a 360-degree color wheel, brightness from black to white, and saturation to what photographers call “colorfulness” or the intensity of a color. In other words, people who are depressed had pictures that were “bluer, grayer and darker.”

One of the most fascinating findings has to do with faces. Researchers found that depressed users were more likely to post photos with faces. However, they had fewer faces in each photo.

— The Washington Post

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