New Delhi: Taking pictures for the purpose of sharing can detract from the enjoyment of the experience, according to new research. While other studies have focused on the emotions—often of pride and joy—that result when we see likes and comments on our Facebook or Instagram posts, a new study.
Journal of Consumer Research is the first to explore how the presence of the “sharing goal” can trigger anxiety at the moment the photos are taken, even if that’s long before actual sharing occurs.
In a series of experiments both in the field—including among tourists waiting in line to take photos of the “Rocky” statue on the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art—and in lab setups that mimicked first-hand travel experiences such as city bus tours or safaris, Alixandra Barasch,
an assistant professor of marketing at New York University, found that participants who took photos primarily for the purpose of sharing experienced greater “self-presentational concern” than those who took photos as personal keepsakes instead.
“Any time you’re trying to manage your impression, you’re going to get in between yourself and the experience,” Barasch explains. In one experiment, the researchers assigned students who were about to celebrate Christmas one of two tasks: either to take photos for a personal album they would keep for themselves to remember and look back on the holiday, or to take photos for an album to post on Facebook or other social media.
The participants who took photos to share reported that they enjoyed the experience less than those who took them for a personal album—and were more likely to describe their memory of the celebration as though it were from the perspective of an outsider observing the scene.
Even more telling were differences in the content of the photos themselves: Those snapping away for social media included a higher proportion of photos of themselves, posed shots, photos of people smiling, and photos of items—like ornaments and stockings—typically associated with Christmas.
“When you take pictures for yourself, you don’t need little cues to signal that it was Christmas, because you were there,” Barasch says. “But when people are taking photos to share on social media, they’re actually trying to put themselves into a third-person perspective—not the lens through which they originally saw the experience.”
So why blame Facebook for increased anxiety about how we appear? One reason, Barasch suggests, is that whereas just a handful of family members and neighbours might have viewed a vacation slideshow in the past, we often broadcast social media posts to hundreds or even thousands of friends and acquaintances with varying levels of closeness.