Gil Greengross Ph.D.

Humor Sapiens

What Your Facebook Picture Reveals about You

What your Facebook picture reveals about you.

Posted Nov 13, 2011

In an earlier post, I reviewed some research that showed how a picture of someone smiling at a young age, such as in high school yearbooks, could predict lower divorce rates later in life and even longer lifespan. The ability of one snapshot photo to convey so much information about a person, effects that last for many decades later, is quite remarkable.

A new study surveyed 92 college students during their first semester at school, who had a Facebook profile picture that could be coded for smile intensity, and followed them for 3.5 years. As you can imagine, some students dropped out of school, and in the end, 48 students (20 males, 28 females) completed the full study. Students completed a questionnaire at the end of the first semester that measures how satisfied they are with their lives and how happy they are with their social relationships (friends, family and in general). At the end of their final semester in college, researchers retrieved their most recent profile picture and the students again completed the life satisfaction scale.

The results showed that, as in previous studies, women tended to smile more than men and with more intensity. For both sexes, smile intensity was correlated with the self-reported life satisfaction (at both points), and with social networks satisfaction. More importantly, even after controlling for how satisfied the students were after their first semester, smile intensity was a good predictor of changes in life satisfaction after 3.5 years.

This study is yet another indication that smiling can have a profound effect on your life, and the more intense the smiling is, the better. It is not entirely clear from the study if smiling itself causes all these positive effects. It may be that smiling is just a manifestation of your internal emotional state, and thus it is not the smiling itself that makes you happy with your life and contributes to your well being. However, studies have shown that if people are forced to smile, they do feel happier and it does change their emotional state.