Will I be happy in four years? If so, how happy? If you ask yourself these questions as I sometimes do— and audibly while walking alone on the street, or while sulking in the bathtub—don’t look to the universe for an answer, look to your Facebook profile picture.
That’s right, introspection is a waste of energy and horoscopes are bunk; a profile picture really is worth a thousand words when it comes to predicting your future satisfaction, or so suggests a new study (via National Post).
Curious to see if a person’s smile in a photograph may or may not affect their lives outside of the frame, researchers from the University of Virginia examined the Facebook profile pictures of a small sample of freshman college students, 84 frosh mug shots in total.
The photographs were analyzed, with the researchers determining varying levels of smile “intensity” (say “Cheese with double-stuffed crust”!).
What the researchers discovered: men and women who flashed their pearly whites with great gusto in their profile pictures were happier than those people who didn’t. These students not only reported greater “life satisfaction” (can we get a clear definition for that phrase? Also lessons in amping up smile intensity?), but nearly four years later, and on the cusp of graduation, they reported even greater feelings of happiness and satisfaction. (You don’t need to have a Facebook profile for the study to have meaning. In 2001, similar results were recorded using college yearbook photos.)
What do these smiling devils know about the secret to living a happy life that eludes so many other people?
For one, they may know how to have a good time, and they may have personalities that lend themselves to having more fun and better relationships. The researchers theorize that the kind of person who is likely to bring a 1000-watt grin to photos is also likely to be a walking, talking smiley face in real-life too.
In short, the secret to being is being happy. If that bitter irony makes you frown rather than smile then I’m sorry to say you’ve just doomed yourself to misery until 2015.
A better idea, given the study’s result: Have a good laugh at the universe’s joke on you (and record it for posterity). Turning a frown upside down may set you up for a better result years down the road. It also makes for a cute profile picture.