If You're Always Using This Instagram Filter You Might Be Depressed

Sometimes it can take twice as long to pick the perfect filter to complement your Instagram photos as it takes to actually shoot the image. It seems as though there’s a filter for everything—to brighten and lighten, to give your photo a vintagy feel and ones that even out your skin tone to make you look flawless. According to a recent study conducted by researchers at Harvard University and the University of Vermont, the filters you choose can also be an indicator of your mental health.

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Using a specially developed algorithm, Harvard University’s Andrew Reece and the University of Vermont’s Christ Danford analyzed the Instagram feeds of 166 people—some of which had been diagnosed with depression and others who were considered mentally healthy—and looked at more than 50,000 images to collect data that proved that a marker of depression is the consistent use of certain filters.


The study found that the Valencia filter, a brighter filter that gives a lightening effect, is most popular with users who were not depressed. The black and white filter Inkwell was the filter most used by clinically depressed users on the photo-sharing app. According to the findings, the filters that make photos appear darker, greyer or bluer are the ones most likely chosen by a user suffering from depression.


The researchers say don’t read too much into it if your friends’ feeds are filled with too many Inkwell filtered photos. In an interview with The Daily Dot, Danford and Reece said, "The algorithm we used looks for complex, systemic patterns across many data points to infer clues about individual psychology. If someone posts a dark, bluish photo to Instagram, it shouldn't necessarily be a red flag for their therapist— that person could just like photos of whales, or blueberries." 

The study, published on the electronic preprint arXiv, has not been peer-reviewed at this time.

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