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Snapchat Dysmorphia

Lenses that are blurring the line between real and filters

CW: This article discusses topics of mental illness which could be distressing to some readers.

Young adult looking into the camera with minimal expression

The famous multimedia instant messaging app, Snapchat, has created a new phenomenon that has now seriously affected the mental health of individuals of all ages. You can message others through texts and pictures, even sharing these on stories that can be viewed by both friends and the public. Although it still continues to be a fun, easy-to-use app that connects the world to friends and family, we must remember the effects of the filtered lenses that have become an essential selling point.

The early 2000s allowed the selfie-taker to simply edit those pesky red eyes from their photos, leaving their face bare and natural to the world. Yet the introduction of smartphones removed this natural approach and replaced it with the opportunity to completely change their appearance! This swift change in around 20 years had affected people of all ages, becoming obsessed in some cases with finding the right filter. We have all browsed these filters ourselves and have taken selfies that have these filters, but we know that these are not the real us, yet the overwhelming thought to look a certain way for society to accept us has become toxic.

Not yet officially medically recognised as a mental health illness, Healthline has identified this phenomenon and has defined 'Snapchat dysmorphia' as:

Snapchat dysmorphia, to put it simply, happens when you compare filtered selfies to your actual appearance. When you fixate on your perceived flaws, the feelings of discontent and unhappiness that surface might lead you to wish you could alter your features to match those filtered images.

The International of Environmental Research and Public Health in 2020 found that gender is not a factor in this dysmorphia phenomenon. Everyone is uncomfortable when looking at themselves as they compare themselves to other people's selfies. Snapchat has developed lenses that allow the user to add unicorn horns, flower crowns, and devil horns to themselves before they take the selfie, and this has become their main selling point. Whilst these lenses can now be created by anyone on their website, the 'explore' section displays an array of filters that drastically alter your appearance - slimming your nose, changing your face shape and eye colour whilst enhancing with the use of make-up.

Keeping the line unblurred: what we can remember when using Snapchat

Everyone has played around with the app and has made memories with those who they love, but it is important to not let these unrealistic filters take over our lives. In recent years, more awareness has been brought to the changes on standards that filtered and photoshopped photos have on society and the challenges that this poses to mental health - famous examples of these are the Kardashians and their iconic waist-snatching, nose-slimming selfies.

More time spent on virtual meetings that began during the recent pandemic continue to be a vital part of working careers, and having filters available to use on these websites contributes to this phenomenon. All of these factors have led to some plastic surgery clients to ask their doctors for changes that would make them appear like the filters are showing, and an Independent article with Dr. Neelam Vashi found that an increasing number of those clients are aged 30 and under.

Person using Snapchat filters on their phone

Apps like TikTok have allowed an unfiltered and natural approach for selfies to flourish and inspire generations of people to step away from these lenses and take in who you truly are away from the filters. The use of these filters is still going to happen but changing your approach to how much you use them is a healthy approach.

Having a positive mindset and attitude toward others' selfies as well is also healthy when considering how 'Snapchat dysmorphia' is affecting everyone in their own way. Any photo another person may upload to social media should be embraced and uplifted, encouraging a change in the unrealistic beauty standards that is being fuelled by Snapchat lenses.

We can all do something that can challenge the way society has developed and we can uplift and show others the beauty that they already have away from these filters.

Never forget: no matter what the filters show - you are beautiful and worthy!


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