Filtered Identity: The Battle Between Reality and Social Media



Social media's need for users


Social media consists of different interactive apps that aim to bring people closer by creating a vast network facilitating communication. The availability of the internet has benefited the rise of social media. Like everything in the world, social networks have advantages and disadvantages; it is a useful tool that can help us learn, communicate, and develop new skills, but at the same time, their downsides cannot be ignored. Different apps are in continuous competition with each other, aiming to attract as many users as possible, to stand out each app tries to introduce new features such as fun filters and beauty filters that aim to enhance one’s beauty creating distorted beauty standards.


The negative effect of social media


More than ever the dark side of social media has become a threat to society. It is contributing to new disorders such as Snapchat dysmorphia. Teens and young adults are obtaining to undergo plastic surgeries to match the Snapchat filtered picture of themselves.

Social media has also changed the traditional advertisement technique, from TV advertisements we have landed in the era of influencers, people with a great number of followers are considered reliable against any scientific study done by competent people, all this is leading to more and more body negativity, teenager and young adults are being manipulated by their own favourite influencer to think their body is not perfect, their lifestyle is not according to new standards.


What is contributing to negative body image?


It is glaring how influencers can persuade their audience and trick them into thinking that whatever they are presenting to them should be the new trend. In the race for the audience and increasing competition, conflict of interest arises, social media users’ mental health and well-being are not prioritized, each app’s main drive is money, and each feature aims to make user users stick to their app to increase their revenue. That’s how things are getting out of control contributing to misinformation and negative body image. We believe social media is free, its mere purpose is to entertain us and connect us. In reality, it costs people’s mental health and physical well-being, underestimating these dangers is leading to a vicious circle, due to the type of role models and advertisements one is exposed to daily, dissatisfaction related to own body image is increasing.


Why filtered reality is detrimental for users


Recent studies have highlighted that in 1986, 7% of young people stated that they'd exercised to lose weight, while in 2015 this percentage became 60%. This shift in the trend underlines how teenagers are becoming obsessed with their appearance and because of this eating disorders have also seen an exponential rise.


To understand the detrimental effect of social media it is necessary to investigate the underlying mode of action, social media’s target audiences are teens and young adults, making these two social groups at higher risk of getting manipulated given the fact they do not have enough experience of the real world; adolescence is a period of great changes when the search for self is more attenuated, teens must build awareness about their identity, which will allow them to understand what really matters in life, and it has been seen in recent years that social media trends have shown to have a bad impact on teens’ mental health and personality development, teens being exposed to perfect body and beauty standards find themselves inadequate.


Human beings by nature try to compare themselves and social media increases the number of users they can compare themselves to, and edited pictures of celebrities, influencers, and beauty filters are seen as a reference point. In the beginning, for teens and young adults, filters are seen as a coping method, that allows them to blur their real selves and pretend to be the edited image, as the day passes the hunt for the perfect body and skin that should match the filtered pictures becomes a real need, the need becomes an obsession, the affected individual start to feel detached from their real self all they want is to achieve the filtered image of themselves; this obsession today is considered a mental disorder and is known as body dysmorphic disorder. Body dysmorphia affects people’s ability to relate to themselves, contributing to low self-esteem, and low confidence, which directly affects their communication skills and social relationships.


Can we characterise beauty?


The battle between appearance and reality is taking a toll on people’s mental health, creating an inner conflict, the solution to this arising problem stands in understanding beauty is subjective. Real skin is imperfectly perfect, as we aren't made up of porcelain, till we are alive skin will breathe and react according to the surrounding environment.


Beauty cannot be characterised by any filter, this concept is not new, it is just forgotten, in 1878 sir Francis Galton raised the question of the understanding of beauty, as he perceived that beauty does not have boundaries, nor it can be standardised, he arrived to conclude this after his failed attempt to create the face of criminality by combining photographs of violent criminals, he failed as the composite portrait that he produces was beautiful.


Knowing that beauty is subjective, will help to decode that filtered reality is not what will make us beautiful or make us more worthy, real beauty comes from inside, and beauty is in diversity.

To embrace ourselves the way we are, we should stop relying on the filtered reality, social media’s only aim is to attract attention through ephemeral trends, things are edited to give the illusion of perfection; followers, likes, and views are temporary but what stays forever is the inner beauty that cannot be captured by any camera or filter.


Once we will be able to accept our unique selves, the balance will establish between us and society, we will be able to communicate and relate to our surroundings with confidence and bring a positive change overall.