Your Choice of Instagram Filter Could Be a Sign of Depression

If you’re a frequent Instagram user, then you probably have a go-to filter.

There are plenty of reasons we might pick Lark over Valencia, but there may be some psychological factors at play as well.

Researchers from Harvard and the University of Vermont studied the Instagram accounts of 166 individuals and found a surprising connection between the social media platform and mental health of its users.

They discovered that certain colours, filters, and subjects in the participants’ Instagram photos could be signs of depression.

So how did they figure this out? The researchers had participants fill out a standardized clinical depression survey and share their Instagram username. From there, they combed through over 43,000 photos from all the combined accounts.


As you might’ve guessed, photos that were bluer, darker, and grayer predicted depression.

Individuals with depression also had fewer faces per posted photo and were less likely to use filters. Those who did use filters often used Inkwell, the black-and-white filter.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you’re depressed if you post darker photos. As mentioned before, there are plenty of motivations for picking a filter. Maybe you just preferred how that pic looked in black-and-white, or perhaps you’re going for a particular colour scheme with your account.


Even the researchers admit that they need to dig deeper into this correlation and more analysis is needed. However, they also feel the results are significant enough that Instagram photos could be a screening tool for mental illness in the future.

After all, as most millennials spend a significant amount of time on social media, it’s safe to assume that there is more to what we post than what’s on the surface. Just like how our clothes and pastimes are expressions of our personality, so too are our online activities.

It’s also interesting to see that even on Instagram, which is known for offering a curated, polished version of people’s lives, you can still find evidence of our true selves lurking behind those flat lays and vacation shots.