The Key to Instagram Popularity Is Apparently the Perfect Number of Selfies

Ever wonder why your best buddy’s Instagram feed is always awash in likes and comments, while yours is sitting sadly on its own in a cold and lonely corner? It might have something to do with what you post — and how often you post it. Ladies and gentlemen, allow us to present to you the secret to Instagram popularity!

According to the NY Daily News, the Georgia Institute of Technology and a bunch of researchers from Yahoo Labs teamed up on a study that examined a whopping 1.1 million photos on Instagram. Their biggest finding? Photos featuring human faces — not cats, not dogs, not your lunch, not the view from your hotel room’s balcony during your fabulous tropical vacation — generate the most positive responses. How much more positive? Pictures of peoples’ faces are 38 percent more likely to be liked and 32 percent more likely to garner comments.

Interestingly, neither the age nor the gender of the subjects mattered; instead, it all boiled down to amount. Apparently you’ve got to be like Goldilocks with your selfies: Posting too few is no good; neither is posting too much; but if you hit just the right amount, your popularity will shoot through the roof. Said Saeideh Bakshi, the Ph.D. student at the Georgia Tech College of Computing who led the study, “The more you post, the less feedback you’re going to get. Posting too much decreases likes two times faster than comments.”

So what do we do with this info (besides hopefully curb our excessive selfie habit, that is)? HowAboutWe’s Date Report blog has an interesting application for it: Online dating, specifically with regards to profile pictures. “Everyone knows that uploading absolutely zero profile pictures sends a clear message: ‘Do not date me,’” writes Molly Fitzpatrick. “But uploading dozens upon dozens of profile pictures sends an equally clear one: ‘Do not date me, either.’” Too many photos displays “an unpleasant blend of narcissim and information overload,” which will almost certainly result in potential matches scurrying off into the great digital yonder. Five seems like a good number, so just bear that in mind if you’re hitting up the online dating scene.

Now go forth, amateur photographers of the world!