We all have a favourite filter. For some, the retro hues of Valencia win every time. For others, the vivid colouring of Clarendon might be their jam. But it turns out that, if you’re more likely to edit your pic with darker hues, it could be a sign that you’re depressed.
Researchers from Harvard and the University of Vermont have found that Instagram photos can be analysed to screen for depression. The scientists used the photos’ attributes, including brightness and colour, to correctly identify which participants suffered from depression at a better rate than the typical physician.
After collecting survey information and 43,950 Instagram photos from 166 volunteers recruited through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, the researchers found that people who are depressed had pictures that were “bluer, greyer and darker.”
Depressed participants in the study were also more likely to post more frequently and to apply more and different types of Instagram filters.
What was the most popular filter for people who are depressed? Inkwell, which turns colour photos into black and white.
“Healthy” participants — people the study defined as not being depressed — favoured the Valencia filter, which, the study said, “lightens the tint of photos.”
The content of photos may also indicate depression.
“Fewer faces may be an oblique indicator that depressed users interact in smaller social settings, which would be in accordance with research linking depression to reduced social interactivity,” wrote Reece and Danforth.
Take these findings with a grain of salt, however, since they have yet to be independently reviewed and the volunteers were crowd-sourced through Amazon’s Mechanical Turk, which tends to attract people with a lot of free time on their hands.