How Sharing Photos on Facebook Affects Your Relationships in Real Life

By Rachel Ramsey August 12, 2013

I’ve had a Facebook (News - Alert) account since I was a sophomore in high school and I would definitely be categorized as a more active user when it comes to photos on the social network; more than seven years later, including an undergraduate career, a semester studying abroad and multiple concerts, vacations and family milestones, I have more than 6,600 photos tagged of me and 295 albums uploaded. So you can probably guess my disappointment when I found out those albums and tagged photos mean I’m anti-social, never living in the moment and really bad at forging real life relationships. A recent study was highlighted in an article headlined, “Always posting pics on Facebook? Then you’re weird, study says,” and used the description, “Those who post vast numbers to Facebook might have trouble enjoying relationships in real life.”

Giving myself the benefit of the doubt, I’m actually the opposite of all of those characteristics. In fact, I would argue that my Facebook friends who post photos frequently are, in fact, those that are out and about, going on great adventures – definitely living in the moment – and being very social. So, naturally, the first three questions I needed to find answers to were:

  1. What is a “vast” number of photos?
  2. What kind of photos is the study referring to?
  3. Weird? According to whom?

I can see where the study is coming from. I’m sure that you have definitely been in a situation at least once before where someone just will not stop taking photos, sharing updates on social media and documenting your whole experience “together.” At some point you just want to say, “Enough! Put the phone down!” Even Beyonce got fed up with fans who would rather take photos of her from front stage than interact and sing along with a song: (Check it out around 1:50 in the video below – “See, you can't even sing because you're too busy taping! I'm right in your face baby, you gotta seize this moment baby! Put that damn camera down!")

If you love photos and sharing them to your social media connections, love seeing photo updates from your social media connections or even if you hate them both and want to rub it in our faces that we’re obnoxious and, apparently, weird – these answers are for you.

What’s a “vast” number of photos?

I know the number of photos I tag (News - Alert), upload and share is probably above the average for Facebook users. But really, what’s a vast number of photos? Is it one an hour? One a day?

The study, “Tagger’s delight? Disclosure and liking in Facebook: The effects of sharing photographs amongst multiple known social circles,” was conducted by Dr. David Houghton from Birmingham Business School, University of Birmingham; Professor Adam Joinson from the University of the West of England, Bristol; Dr Nigel Caldwell, Heriot-Watt University; and Dr Ben Marder, University of Edinburgh.

There authors came up with two properties when it comes to photos:

  • Breadth -- the quantity of information, both frequency and category, and depth to the quality
  • Depth – can range from surface information, such as demographic data, to more core values

The report does not give a standard number to what is considered a “vast” amount of photos – it did different studies based on the frequency of sharing photos with other factors, like who you are sharing it with and what kind of content you are sharing.

 What kind of photos is the study referring to?

According to the study, there are seven main categories of photographic content that are typically shared on Facebook: self, friend, event, family, scene, object and animal. There are also five target groups of audiences: relative, partner, close friend, colleague and general Facebook friend.

The report tested photo sharing frequency with what target group photos were shared with and then looked at the impact of support – or the extent that the participant and the target provide one another with emotional support and advice – and intimacy to determine the closeness between the participant and target from the recipient’s perspective.

Here are some key takeaways:

  • Older Facebook users have lower scores for support than younger participants across all target types, and older participants and lower scores of intimacy with a target regardless of target type or frequency of sharing.
  • Males have lower scores of support than females overall.
  • Colleagues have significantly lower scores of support and intimacy than a general Facebook friend.
  • Increased sharing of photos of the self (selfies) is related to decreased scores of support and intimacy.
  • Frequent sharing of photos of friends and events is related to increased scores of support – regardless of the type of target – and intimacy.

Weird? According to whom?

Basically, it’s all about what kind of content you are sharing and who you are sharing it with. The way you are sharing photos and what photos you are sharing with whom, can affect, according to the study, the quality and intimacy of your real life relationships.

The study also brings in photo sharing for brands and marketing. Have you ever participated in a Twitter (News - Alert) or Facebook contest? A lot of brands encourage users to share posts with designated hashtags or upload a photo on Facebook and tag a brand for a chance to win prizes. Have you ever not participated in one of those contests because of how annoying you’ll be to your friends, followers or connections? The study warns brands and businesses about how they are using Facebook – to think about how their contests will affect not just their fans participating, but the followers of those fans.

“Within marketing it should be understood that campaigns that entice users to post photographs to brand pages within Facebook, may have detrimental effects on the relationships their ‘fans’ hold with others. Therefore, while benefitting brand awareness and critical mass of a Facebook fan page for a brand, organization or cause, sharing photographs may be harmful to those asked to participate. It should be carefully considered what information brands are their Facebook fans to share, taking care to avoid users sharing such information more widely than with the brand page itself,” the study said.

The findings of this study aren’t too surprising. Like most advice when talking about sharing on the Internet and social media sites, Ben Marder, a contributor to the research, said, “My advice for people sharing photos or links with a fan site is think twice and share once. Be cautious when sharing and think how it will be perceived by all the others who may see it. Although sharing is a great way to better relationships it can also damage them.”

Edited by Rich Steeves

TechZone360 Web Editor

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