• Zainab Naqvi

Filters: Trendy or Toxic?

Updated: Sep 21


We live in an era in which we are preaching about body positivity and self-love, while simultaneously using social media filters on our photos that drastically alter our features and appearance. If you feel personally attacked, don’t worry, so do I. Thinner face, freckles, colored eyes, bigger lips, you name it and social media will grant it to you. Snapchat and Instagram are the fairy godmothers of our plastic surgery dreams. It may seem like innocent fun on the surface, but dig a little deeper and the truly toxic nature of these filters is exposed.

Before we get deeper into this topic, I’m going to start with a short personal narrative. My friends and the people around me typically consider me to be a confident person. In the real world, I embrace my “flaws” and feel as though they add character to my appearance. Something that a lot of people wouldn’t be able to tell while interacting with me is that I have struggled quite a bit with social media filter dependency. Sounds cheeky, right? Though there may not be a Web-MD page dedicated to this kind of addiction, I think it’s something a lot of people struggle with. Personally, it got to a point where I started thinking that selfies I took without a filter were somehow unattractive. I went from being confident in who I am and how I looked filter-free, to using them in almost every photograph I posted. It became an addiction at times because I started to think that no matter how great I felt about myself, I would always look better with a filter. That mentality right there became damaging to me.

As we move towards a culture that rejects celebrity photoshopping, and the 'stick-thin, 90’s model' look, we’re also bringing these very elements into our daily lives. Think about the 'top model' look that girls everywhere are using on Instagram- what message is that sending to younger girls and women everywhere? That in order to be considered “model-level” pretty, your face has to be slimmer, cheekbones higher, and lips bigger? Though on the surface it’s harmless and fun, it's setting the tone for universalized beauty norms. Even filters that seem to be silly, such as the fan-favorite puppy filter on Snapchat, gives you the illusion of clear skin. With that filter, there isn’t a blemish in sight. The standards that these filters are setting are virtually impossible to attain naturally in the real world. Has anyone else noticed the increase in plastic surgery, lip fillers, and botox as the use of social media filters rises as well? Coincidence?

If many adults (myself included) are struggling with this, it makes me wonder how it will shape future generations. Children and teens are being exposed to social media at a younger age, and they are far more impressionable. At an age where acne and braces are the defining factor of your teen years, commonly known as the “awkward phase” (oh c’mon, we’ve all had one), is it possible that clinging to these filters and creating a false virtual reality could make coping with their real-world appearances difficult and maybe even traumatic? Also, is it possible that as a society we have an obligation to somehow protect our youth from such exposure? Let us know what you think in the comments below!

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