Selfies hurt self-esteem. No, they help. Scientists can't make up their minds

Story highlights

  • New study links looking at selfies with low self-esteem
  • But taking selfies or looking at group selfies can make you happier

(CNN)We're living in the age of the selfie. But is that a good thing?

The short answer: We don't know.
    A new study suddenly doing the social media rounds links looking at selfies with lower levels of self-esteem and life satisfaction.
    But there's also another study that says posting selfies does wonders for our self-worth.
    Let's talk about them one by one.

    Looking at selfies

    The first study, Let me Take a Selfie, is by two graduate students at Penn State University. It's the first to analyze the effects of looking at others' selfies rather than taking them.
    "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 behavior," said lead author Ruoxu Wang.
    After reading through 255 survey responses, the researchers noted that people who lurked a lot on social media had lower opinions of themselves. This is explained through what they call the 'upward social comparison theory' -- when people view others' pictures, they may feel like their own lives don't measure up.
    According to the report, "Frequent selfie viewing behavior may trigger one's jealousy so as to decrease one's self-esteem and life satisfaction."

    Posting selfies

    But while looking at selfies might be bad, the other study claims posting selfies helps build confidence.
    Posted on the online journal First Monday, it reported women often take selfies to increase their self-esteem because the affirming messages left by other users allow them to see themselves in a more positive light.
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    The exception

    Contrast selfies with groupies, and things change.
    Groupies, which are self-portraits in a group setting, boosts feelings of belonging as the these photos often showcase communities that the viewers belong to. Even Penn State's research links them to high life satisfaction levels.
    Then, there's Instagram's popular #HealthySelfie hashtag joins over 25,000 pictures of people chronicling their health journey through pictures which keep them motivated.
    So, in the end, you'll probably be the best judge of how selfies affect you.
    But we're betting you won't be stopping any time soon.