Taking a photograph a day and posting it online improves wellbeing, research finds

  • Study shows taking a photo a day and posting it online has complex benefits and supports improved wellbeing
  • Benefits include self-care, community interaction and the potential for reminiscence
  • Instagram has more than 1.5 million posts tagged #365 for each day of the year and thousands use the Blipfoto photo-a-day site

Insta

Taking a photo each day and posting it online has complex benefits and supports improved wellbeing, according to a new study by the Universities of Sheffield and Lancaster.

This is a popular social phenomenon, with Instagram having more than 1.5million photos tagged #365 for each day of the year, while there are thousands of members of Blipfoto, a key photo-a-day site.

A study co-authored by Dr Andrew Cox of the University of Sheffield and Dr Liz Brewster from Lancaster University recorded what photos people took, the text they added and how they interacted with others on the photo-a-day site for two months.

They found that taking a daily photo improved wellbeing through:

  • Self-care
  • Community interaction
  • The potential for reminiscence

Dr Andrew Cox, Senior Lecturer in the University of Sheffield’s Information School, said: “Taking one photo every day and sharing it online seems to impact wellbeing in a number of ways. It encourages people to look differently at the world around them, prompts them to go out of their routine ways and connects them with others more. It makes them feel more creative. They enjoy taking the photos, but also looking back at them. Many use it as a form of diary.

“There seems to be an emerging trend of people doing what might be called digital daily practices – for example, running every day and sharing the route online or knitting or writing every day. Taking a photo every day is just one of these.”

He added: “When there is so much talk about the addictive or detrimental effects of social media, it’s important to recognise that people also use it in ingenious ways to improve their lives.”

Taking a moment to be mindful, and looking for something different or unusual in the day were seen as positive well-being benefits of the practice, the study found.

One participant said: “My job was a very highly stressful role… There were some days when I’d almost not stopped to breathe, you know what I mean… And just the thought: oh wait a moment, no, I’ll stop and take a photograph of this insect sitting on my computer or something. Just taking a moment is very salutary I think.”

It also led to more exercise and gave a sense of purpose, competence and achievement.

Another participant said: “It encourages me out of the house sometimes when I could just sit on my backside with a cup of tea. I’ll think maybe I’ll take a walk down on to the seafront and before I know it I’m two miles along the coast.“

The online contact helped people to manage loneliness and grief as well as meeting new people with shared interests. Several participants had taken early retirement and found that the contact established via photo-a-day replaced some of the daily office chatter that they missed.

“There’s the banter in the workshop or the office or the place where you work. And perhaps [photo-a-day] offers that… Because I’m having conversations with people that I would perhaps have had in the workplace.

The online interactions created a community based on the photos and accompanying text.

“It could be a rubbish photograph but if somebody commented on it, it made it worthwhile.”

The online text was used to provide personal narratives, reminiscences, and explanations of repeated images.

“If I’m ever feeling down or something it’s nice to be able to scroll back and see good memories. You know, the photos I’ve taken will have a positive memory attached to it even if it’s something as simple as I had a really lovely half an hour for lunch sitting outside and was feeling really relaxed.”

The researchers said the practice is “an active process of meaning making, in which a new conceptualisation of wellbeing emerges.”

Read the study

Additional information

The University of Sheffield

With almost 29,000 of the brightest students from over 140 countries, learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe, the University of Sheffield is one of the world’s leading universities.

A member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, Sheffield offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines.

Unified by the power of discovery and understanding, staff and students at the university are committed to finding new ways to transform the world we live in.

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Sheffield has six Nobel Prize winners among former staff and students and its alumni go on to hold positions of great responsibility and influence all over the world, making significant contributions in their chosen fields.

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Contact

For further information please contact:

Hannah Postles
Media Relations Officer
The University of Sheffield
0114 2221046
h.postles@sheffield.ac.uk