10 Things Your Social Media Profile Says About You

Young woman is taking a selfie
Curious about what your Instagram profile and your social media usage says about you? Read on to find out | iStock.com/jakubzak

If you have some sort of digital device, you’re probably addicted to a social network or two. Maybe you’re guilty of scrolling through your Facebook feed constantly — even when you’re at work. Or perhaps you’re always on Instagram playing around with the photo filters. Whatever your poison of choice is, you’re probably spending countless hours on social networking sites revealing things about yourself through comments, likes, and photo postings. And it’s actually those exact actions that can divulge a lot about you — much more than you think. (We’re not just talking about your likes and dislikes here.)

For instance, how you use your Facebook or Instagram account can reveal some psychopathic or narcissistic tendencies. It can also expose some of your personality traits and your current state of mind.

Now don’t get us wrong. We’re not saying that if you use these social media networks a certain way that it definitely signals you’re suffering from these tendencies. Instead, we’d like for you to see our examples as both a form of entertainment and a warning of how the outside world might be perceiving you.

Still curious to learn what your social media profile and usage could be saying about you? Read on to find out some interesting insights about your actions backed by years of psychological research.

1. Posting black-and-white photos

Woman reading Instagram news on her smartphone
Posting dark or black-and-white photos on your Instagram can be a sign of depression | iStock.com/RossHelen

NPR’s Angus Chen reports that your social media photos could suggest whether you’re depressed. To prove this theory, researchers Andrew G. Reece of Harvard University and Christopher M. Danforth of the University of Vermont created a computer script that analyzed galleries of Instagram photos. The findings? It accurately predicted if the users were depressed.

In their study, titled “Instagram photos reveal predictive markers of depression,” they found that “photos posted by depressed individuals were more likely to be bluer, grayer, and darker” in color. And interestingly enough, they found that human ratings of photo attributes — i.e., our assessment of whether the images are happy or sad — were “weaker predictors of depression, and were uncorrelated with computationally-generated features.” 

2. Not using filters

A man captures a sunset with his smartphone
Another indication you may be depressed? If you never use filters on your Instagram photos | iStock.com/petrunjela

Many Instagram users add filters to their photos. Some even download apps specifically made to alter and enhance the look of their images. But in their study, Reece and Danforth reported that depressed people are less likely than others to use any filters on their Instagram images. That sort of makes sense, since adding filters to your snapshots (regardless of whether it’s Instagram or another app), usually results in brighter photos with more punched-up color and contrast. 

3. Deleting photos without likes

A woman captures a concert on her smartphone
Teenagers can sometimes be guilty of deleting their Instagram photos because of a lack of likes | iStock.com/rzoze19

The Atlantic’s Adrienne LaFrance reports that researchers at Penn State University can tell how old you are based on your behavior on social networks like Instagram. Some distinct behaviors that they’ve spotted? Deleting photos that don’t get enough likes, which is a behavior that teenagers engage in on Instagram. “Teens want to be very popular, so they’re very conscious of the likes they’re getting,” says Dongwon Lee, an associate professor of the College of Information Sciences and Technology at Penn State University.

Some additional findings that they touched upon related to the topic of photo interaction. Interestingly enough, teenagers tend to interact with more photos than adults do, but they also seem to post fewer photos themselves. Adults post photos with more diverse topics in mind, while teens mostly post photos that reflect their mood. 

4. Posting Instagram selfies

A woman plays with her smartphone in a cafe
Posting frequent selfies can be a great confidence booster, but it can also create conflict with others | iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages

Researchers at Florida State University examined the predictors and consequences of posting selfies on Instagram. They found that “body image satisfaction was sequentially associated with increased Instagram selfie posting and Instagram-related conflict, which related to increased negative romantic outcomes.” The upshot? When Instagram users post selfies because they’re satisfied with the way they look, they run the risk of negatively affecting their relationships with others.

5. Editing or enhancing selfies

A woman takes a selfie
Editing or enhancing images can be bad for how you perceive your body image | iStock.com/Rohappy

Selfies don’t only affect your relationships, though. They also affect how you see yourself. Researchers at Australia’s La Trobe University found that girls who regularly share selfies on social media, relative to those who don’t, report “significantly higher overvaluation of shape and weight, body dissatisfaction, dietary restraint, and internalization of the thin ideal.” 

6. Posting selfie after selfie

A woman takes a selfie while riding public transportation
Individuals who post frequent selfies can seem narcissistic to others | iStock.com/Marjan_Apostolovic

It should come as no surprise that some of our behaviors on social networks can make us look like narcissists or even psychopaths. A study conducted by Ohio State University researchers found that men who posted an increased number of edited selfies scored higher on measures of narcissism and psychopathy. Don’t worry, though. Prioritizing your appearance doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re a narcissist or a psychopath. It may indicate, however, that you could be predisposed to higher than average levels of antisocial traits. 

7. Boastful posts

Top down view of a woman taking a photo of a meal
Those who prioritize their health and physical appearance will sometimes post photos of their diet or exercise regimen | iStock.com/ymgerman

Boastful posts can be another indicator of narcissism. Researchers Tara C. Marshall, Katharina Lefringhausen, and Nelli Ferenczi of Brunel University in the United Kingdom report that narcissism is a pretty good predictor of the kinds of topics that somebody will write about on Facebook. Narcissists will frequently post about things like their diet, personal achievements, and their exercise regimen in order to seek attention and to feel validated. So if you’re posting photo after photo of your healthy meals, or of your outfit at the gym (and you’re not running a food or fitness blog), our advice would be to tone it down a bit. Unless, of course, you want your Instagram followers to know how much of a priority you place on your physical appearance. 

8. Posting ‘fitspiration’ images

A man and woman exercise with dumbbells in a gym
Constantly posting ‘fitspiration’ images? Your body image may not be as healthy as you think | iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages

Posting “fitspiration” images on Instagram might not seem like an unhealthy habit. After all, it’s a lot healthier than the “thinspiration” trend that preceded it. But a recent study found that the majority of fitspiration images posted online represent a single body type: thin and toned. Additionally, most images contained objectifying elements. What this means is that “while fitspiration images may be inspirational for viewers, they also contain a number of elements likely to have negative effects on the viewer’s body image.”

Another study found that women who post fitspiration images “scored significantly higher on drive for thinness, bulimia, drive for muscularity, and compulsive exercise” than those who didn’t post such images. Almost a fifth of these women were at risk for diagnosis of a clinical eating disorder, compared to just 4.3% of the group who didn’t post fitspiration images. 

9. Lack of interaction

Woman holding smartphone
Not posting comments on social media can put you at a higher risk of loneliness | iStock.com/ Kikovic

What you don’t do on Instagram can reveal just as much as what you do. Chia-chen Yang of the University of Memphis reports that a behavior called “Instagram broadcasting” was associated with higher loneliness. This includes uploading images without tagging anyone or posting something that’s not directed to specific people. The upshot is that using Instagram to interact and socialize with other people is correlated with lower loneliness. Our advice? Keep those comments and messages coming!

10. Following strangers

Woman uses her smartphone inside an airplane
Another sign of loneliness on social media is following strangers’ accounts | iStock.com/yuran-78

The users you choose to follow on Instagram can say something about your state of mind. Researchers at Pace University found that “more frequent Instagram use has negative associations for people who follow more strangers, but positive associations for people who follow fewer strangers, with social comparison and depressive symptoms.” Of course, social media is meant to instill a sense of community. Therefore, we’re not saying that you shouldn’t engage in dialogue with strangers. Or that you shouldn’t friend them if a connection is made. But you shouldn’t make it your priority unless you’re building a brand image for yourself or for your company.