All smiles on social? Don’t be fooled

Do you ever scroll through photos on social media and feel a twinge of jealousy about that person’s seemingly perfect life? You’re not alone, as our latest research reveals over a third of us are affected by insecurities when we look through other people’s photos on social media, with 25-34 year olds feeling the pressure most.

Our MD Anthony recently attended a radio day in London to discuss the findings with psychologist and memory expert Professor Martin Conway, which made for an interesting listen! We’ve summarised our key findings below, which explore how social media might not just be affecting our insecurities, but also our ability to recall memories.

Many of us spend more time culling and filtering photos than taking them in the first place, so we’re wise to the realities of social media. We weren’t overly surprised that our research showed nearly nine out of ten of us are firm in our belief that social media only features the crème de la crème of photos. So, what does this reveal about the effect of this rose-tinted, ‘Black Mirror’-style alternative reality? Half us believe we may have created false ‘happy’ memories of how times once were after looking at a childhood photo, suggesting it’s not only our self-esteem that will be affected by social media habits, but also our long-term memories.

Not only does looking at childhood photos seem to trigger modified memories, but a quarter of us have childhood memories that we suspect may not be true altogether. Could the ideological world of social media be to blame? 25-34 year olds (the age group that looks back at photos most often, and who are of the ‘social ‘generation) are also most likely to have questionable childhood memories.

This poses concern for younger generations as social media use rises, and unsurprisingly those who grew up in simpler times (over 55s) are the most concerned for younger generations. While over half of us believe it is a good thing that so many memories are captured with images on social media, there is consensus of concern for the pressure this places on young people to live up to a false idea of reality.

Not all is lost, however! Objects, sounds and smells have been repeatedly proven to trigger accurate recall, with four in five people believing these cues can aid memory. Traditional craft past times like scrapbooks and memory boxes might be our best hope of accurately preserving our stories for the future, rather than relying on social media ‘memories’. In a world of online photo albums and 10 second ‘stories’, these timeless activities can help preserve times gone by, keeping them safe for future generations – something we’re championing with our Treasured Memories campaign again this year.

Professor Martin Conway, Head of Psychology at City University London, provided some insight:

“The new research by safe.co.uk has shown us just how fallible memory is and the use of social media is actually contributing to this false recall. People tend to succumb to online pressures and only present themselves in a positive light on social media and as people look back on their photos, they can go on to construct false ‘happy’ memories of what that photo represents. This then leads to false representations of the self and people create memories to support the pictures they’re looking at.

What we need to remember is that in order to accurately remember times gone by, we should be using other cues and tangible keepsakes, not just online photos, to store our memories most effectively.”

Have a look over our infographic below for a summary of the key findings from our research:

Do you think social media increases the likelihood of creating false memories? Are you for or against sharing our photographic ‘memories’ on social media? Let us know on Twitter @TalkWithSafe – we’d love to hear your thoughts!

Published: April 5, 2017

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