"Most of the research done on social network sites looks at the motivation for posting and liking content, but we're now starting to look at the effect of viewing behaviour," said Ruoxu Wang, graduate student at Pennsylvania State University (Penn State) in the US.
Viewing behaviour is also called "lurking" - when a person does not participate in posting or liking social content, but is just an observer.
This form of participation in social media may sound like it should have little effect on how humans view themselves, but the study, showed the exact opposite.
Wang and Fan Yang, also graduate student at Penn State, conducted an online survey to collect data on the psychological effects of posting and viewing selfies and groupies.
Posting behaviour did not have significant psychological effects for participants. Viewing behaviour did.
Working with Wang's graduate adviser, Michel Haigh, associate professor in communications, researchers discovered the more often people viewed their own and others' selfies, the lower their level of self-esteem and life satisfaction. "People usually post selfies when they are happy or having fun," said Wang.
"This makes it easy for someone else to look at these pictures and think his or her life is not as great as theirs," he said.
In this case, however, selfie and groupie viewing behaviour increased the self-esteem and life satisfaction for these participants, likely because this activity satisfied the participants' desires to appear popular, researchers said.
Wang and Yang hope their work can raise awareness about social media use and the effect it has on viewers of people's social networks.
"We don't often think about how what we post affects the people around us," said Yang.
"I think this study can help people understand the potential consequences of their posting behaviour. This can help counsellors work with students feeling lonely, unpopular, or unsatisfied with their lives," Yang added.
The study was published in the Journal of Telematics and Informatics.
(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)
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