We've all heard all the semi-serious jokes about selfies and the narcissistic (often younger) people that take them all ... the ... time. 

Research has actually failed to find a link between posting frequent selfies and a narcissistic personality, but a new study finds that hasn't stopped the rest of us from seeing selfies in a negative light.

"While posts on social media might not be indicative of the poster's personality, other people might think they are," said Chris Barry, a Washington State University professor of psychology who has been researching Instagram activity and personality traits for years.

Barry led the earlier study investigating a possible link between selfies and narcissistic behavior. He is now lead author of new research finding that people's snap judgments of selfie posters were more harsh compared with posed photos (posies) taken by another person. 

The research found selfie posters were perceived as more insecure and less likeable, successful, and open to new experiences. Basically, people seem to hate selfies and the people who share them. 

"Even when two feeds had similar content, such as depictions of achievement or travel, feelings about the person who posted selfies were negative and feelings about the person who posted posies were positive," Barry explained. "It shows there are certain visual cues, independent of context, that elicit either a positive or negative response on social media."

The new study has been published in the Journal of Research in Personality.

Barry's team of researchers asked a group of 119 undergraduate students to rate Instagram images of 30 undergraduates at a different university on the other side of the country. The participants rated the images on 13 attributes including self-absorption, extraversion, and success.

Students who posted more posies were seen as having higher self-esteem, being more dependable, and more successful, among several positive attributes. The opposite was true for students who shared more selfies, especially those who did things to focus on physical appearance, like flexing in the mirror. 

"While there may be a variety of motives behind why people post self-images to Instagram, how those photos are perceived appears to follow a more consistent pattern," Barry said. "While the findings of this study are just a small piece of the puzzle, they may be important to keep in mind before you make that next post."

Perhaps. But maybe the real takeaway here is to catch yourself next time you begin to judge a total stranger solely on the basis of how they take photos. 

Published on: Aug 22, 2019
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.