Features

Exploring the Effect of Social Media Filters on Mental Health and Beauty Standards

By: Lainey Hynes and Naomi Etienne

From green screens, to artificial intelligence, to face filters — changing one’s appearance online has quickly become popular since early Apple photo booth days — and it looks like it’s a trend that’s here to stay.

Along with the rest of social media, filters have evolved dramatically throughout the years. What began as playful and innocent designs on the faces of its users have now predominantly been made to alter and enhance their features. The effect, creating unrealistic beauty standards that people feel pressured to meet. 

“They were all silly and cute…filters that you wouldn’t take seriously,” said Mt. Hebron junior Avery Maslow, who first started using filters on Snapchat. 

In the early years of social media platforms like Snapchat, filters weren’t complex. Adding a flower crown or dog ears to a user’s head was the extent of available options. 

Recently, social media users’ impression of filters has changed from cute, simple, and fun, to extremely detailed and even uncanny. Whether they add a few freckles, some eyeliner, or a bit of lip plumper, these filters can entirely change the way a user looks on camera. 

“It looks so weird when you take [a filter] off, because looking at this camera, that’s definitely not what I look like,” stated Mt. Hebron freshman Addie Hasseltine.

Beauty filters were created to make people more confident, covering up a blemish on their face or whitening their teeth. However, the downside is that after the filter is gone, users no longer look the way they want to. 

“One of my biggest insecurities is my acne, and [the filters] take that away and enhance my other features. When I take them off, it makes me upset because with filters, I look the way I want to look in real life,” said Maslow. 

People, especially younger kids, seeing features considered more attractive than those they were born with, will likely feel bad about themselves, wondering if not meeting beauty standards makes them unworthy. Some people in places such as TikTok comments state that they plan to show a plastic surgeon the way a filter looks on their face to achieve those looks. The glaring issue comes within younger people who are impressionable and vulnerable in their teen years. 

“I have a little sister, and I feel like I wasn’t worrying about what she is at her age. She’s having insecurities that I’m having now,” said Maslow. “Everyone is going to be subject to beauty standards at some point, but filters and social media expose kids to it much earlier,” she continued.

For now, filters may offer a short-term fix for anyone wanting to change their appearance, but in the long term, it affects their identity, self-confidence, and the future of beauty standards. 

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