Trawling through your own Facebook pictures could be good for your mental health


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The Independent Online

Do you cheer yourself up by trawling through your old photos on Facebook?

It could- if you believe researchers at the University of Portsmouth- be good for your mental health.

A study by Dr Alice Good suggests almost 90% of Facebookers use the social networking behemoth to look at their own wall posts and three quarters look at their own photos when they are feeling down.

Dr Good says such "self-soothing" use of Facebook is beneficial to the user's mood, especially if they are prone to feeling low.

Founded in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg, the site recently celebrated having one billion active monthly users.

The survey of 144 users found that people often use the site to reminisce, trawling old photos and wall posts for comfort.

It also found that people with mental health issues were particularly comforted by the site.

Dr Good said: "The results indicate we could use self-soothing as a form of treatment for low moods."

"We were very surprised by these findings, which contradict some recent reports.

"Although this was only a small study, we will go on to study larger groups to see if the results remain consistent."

Dr Good's study has concluded that looking at comforting photos, known as "reminiscent therapy", could be an effective method of treating mental health.

It is already widely thought that reminiscent therapy helps older people with memory problems.

Using old photos, items and films can help people with short-term memory loss feel comforted by objects that are familiar to them.

This new research shows that it could also be an effective treatment for people with depression or anxiety.

And Dr Clare Wilson, psychologist at the University of Portsmouth, said: "Although this is a pilot study, these findings are fascinating.

"Facebook is marketed as a means of communicating with others. Yet this research shows we are more likely to use it to connect with our past selves, perhaps when our present selves need reassuring.

"The pictures we often post are reminders of a positive past event. When in the grip of a negative mood, it is too easy to forget how good we often feel. Our positive posts can remind us of this."

The study, published in Lecture Notes in Computer Science: Universal Access in Human-Computer Interaction, is part of a larger research project that looks at how applications can support wellbeing.