Social media pics show nature makes us happy

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An AI analysis of photographs posted on social media reveals a positive association between nature and happiness globally, researchers report.

The research team analyzed over 31,500 photographs across 185 countries on social media with the help of an automated image recognition technology.

“Integrating social media data and AI opens up a unique opportunity for us to carry out unprecedented large-scale global studies such as this to better understand our interactions with nature in our daily lives,” says first author Chang Chia-chen, a research fellow in the biological sciences department at the National University of Singapore.

The team’s analysis of the photographs uploaded to social media reveals that photographs tagged as #fun, #vacations, and #honeymoons are more likely to contain elements of nature such as plants, water, and natural landscape as compared to photographs tagged #daily or #routines.

This finding, which is consistent across different countries, provides global evidence of the biophilia hypothesis—humans’ innate tendency to seek connection with nature—and implies a positive association between nature and fond memories in memorable events like honeymoons.

The team also found that the amount of nature experiences in a country is linked to the life satisfaction of its residents. Countries which have more elements of nature in photographs tagged as #fun, such as Costa Rica and Finland, for instance, possess higher national life satisfaction scores according to the World Happiness Report 2019.

Collectively, the findings suggest the importance of nature in contributing to emotional happiness, relaxation, and life satisfaction in communities worldwide.

“Our study brings to light the cultural and social values that nature brings to humans. It further emphasizes the importance of preserving our natural environment,” says Roman Carrasco, an associate professor in the department of biological sciences. “For the loss of nature may mean more than losing quantifiable economic and ecological benefits; it could also mean losing the background to our fondest memories.

“Our next step is therefore to establish how nature experiences may benefit human well-being such as how it improves our satisfaction in life, hence enabling the development of constructive solutions to better environmental conservation,” he adds.

The research appears in Scientific Reports.

Source: National University of Singapore