Beware of Selfies : The Impact of Photo Type on Impression Formation Based on Social Networking Profiles

Users of social networking sites such as Facebook frequently post self-portraits on their profiles. While research has begun to analyze the motivations for posting such pictures, less is known about how selfies are evaluated by recipients. Although producers of selfies typically aim to create a positive impression, selfies may also be regarded as narcissistic and therefore fail to achieve the intended goal. The aim of this study is to examine the potentially ambivalent reception of selfies compared to photos taken by others based on the Brunswik lens model Brunswik (1956). In a between-subjects online experiment (N = 297), Facebook profile mockups were shown which differed with regard to picture type (selfie vs. photo taken by others), gender of the profile owner (female vs. male), and number of individuals within a picture (single person vs. group). Results revealed that selfies were indeed evaluated more negatively than photos taken by others. Persons in selfies were rated as less trustworthy, less socially attractive, less open to new experiences, more narcissistic and more extroverted than the same persons in photos taken by others. In addition, gender differences were observed in the perception of pictures. Male profile owners were rated as more narcissistic and less trustworthy than female profile owners, but there was no significant interaction effect of type of picture and gender. Moreover, a mediation analysis of presumed motives for posting selfies revealed that negative evaluations of selfie posting individuals were mainly driven by the perceived motivation of impression management. Findings suggest that selfies are likely to be evaluated less positively than producers of selfies might suppose.


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