Beauty filters are blurring the line between our digital and actual selves
CW: This article discusses topics of mental illness which could be distressing for some readers.
Unless you've been living under a rock, you're probably aware that millions of people use beauty filters to edit their selfies before sharing them on social media. Beauty filters are popular because they can smooth out our skin, remove blemishes, and generally make us appear more presentable and appealing. Social media sites like Snapchat, Instagram, and Tiktok all encourage the use of beauty filters by making them instantly available on-screen whenever you're about upload a photo. This instant availability of filters on social media means that we often compare our authentic selves to the edited, digital version of ourselves. This type of comparison may cause us to experience body dissatisfaction when viewing our actual selves, which could potentially trigger Body Dysmorphic Disorder in some individuals.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder is a mental health condition characterised by excessive fixation over perceived flaws in your appearance, even if the perceived flaws are completely unobvious to others. The desire to look more like your flawless, edited selfies has led to a new form of Body Dysmorphic Disorder known as ‘Snapchat Dysmorphia’. Dr Neelam Vashi pointed out that as a result of Snapchat Dysmorphia:
"Patients are seeking out [cosmetic] surgery to help them appear like the filtered versions of themselves.”
Unrealistic beauty standards
The beauty filters we see on our screens on a daily basis do not represent natural beauty. However, because they are so common, it's easy to think of these filters as 'normal' and how we should look. This is a problem because it has given rise to a new, irrational notion of what beauty is— that we should all strive to resemble filtered versions of ourselves because they are the most attractive version of ourselves. Unfortunately, this is what is triggering body image dissatisfaction and Body Dysmorphic Disorder in some individuals.
This is particularly damaging for teenagers and young adults because they typically tend to use social media more often than other age groups. For example, the widespread use of beauty filters means that teenagers with acne may believe that their skin condition is abnormal and gross, even though it is completely natural and normal to have acne during puberty. This constant exposure to beauty filters seems to be causing more harm than good, so would it benefit society if social media sites eradicated all beauty filters?
Back to reality
I think it's time to initiate change. If social media sites scrap their beauty filters, society would benefit in a variety of ways. To begin with, we would all post photos of our true selves, which would help to promote natural beauty and eliminate the current unrealistic beauty standards. Secondly, it would help us to appreciate and respect our natural body features like acne, stretch marks, and scars. This type of acceptance may help us to increase our self-esteem, which is always a good thing! Furthermore, the removal of beauty filters would allow us to connect with reality more frequently, rather than being confused between our digital and actual selves. Overall, it would improve our mental health; particularly for those with Body Dysmorphic Disorder.
This change won't happen unless all the big social media sites like Snapchat, Instagram and Tiktok remove their beauty filters. Therefore, we need to work together to get the message across to these social media platforms. If you agree with what you've read so far, or you have any personal experiences with beauty filters and mental health problems, then get involved today!. Try going filter-free on social media, post about the issue and share information to help spread the message. With a bit of perseverance, all of society could soon be filter-free.