How beauty filters on social media affect young women

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Like most people on social media, I played with filters in times of boredom.

These filters range from the funny (changing your face to look like a kitten or a puppy), to the absurd (finding yourself in space), to the terrifying that allow you to completely change the appearance of your face.

Dalisay Amena from Melbourne says she uses filters regularly: “I love the effects of different food filters, the collages, the photo-in-photo layouts.

She adds that she mainly uses filters when she wants to look “presentable” but doesn’t feel like wearing makeup.

But in addition to providing a fun distraction, some of these filters are increasingly having an impact on beauty standards and the way we see ourselves.

Santilla uses a ‘Disney’ beauty filter on Instagram.(

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What are beauty filters and how do they work?

These are basically tools that use artificial intelligence to detect facial features and automatically edit the images. They can be found on most of the major social media image sharing platforms and, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), they are rooted in Japanese Kawaii culture.

In the mid-1990s, Kawaii culture spearheaded the rise of photo booths, known as “purikura,” which could edit, retouch, and enhance photos, as well as adorn them with phrases or stickers.

With the advent of modern technology, it quickly found its way into the mainstream and saw its popularity increase.

The Butterfly Foundation’s Dr Stephanie Damiano says the more people engage with photo-based social media platforms, the more likely they are to experience body dissatisfaction.

“Some work has shown that the more involved a person is in taking and editing selfies, the more likely they are to experience body dissatisfaction and potentially be at increased risk for an eating disorder,” adds she does.

Dr Damiano says that thanks to research from the Butterfly Foundation, they found that more and more young people using these platforms want to look like their filters: “This is what we think helps to why they experience bodily dissatisfaction. “

The rise of the “Instagram face”

This look has a name – the Instagram face. Writing in The New Yorker, writer Jia Tolentino describes him as “a young face, of course, with pore-free skin and plump, high cheekbones. He has cat eyes and long, cartoonish eyelashes; he has a small clean and full nose and lush lips ”, adding that the face can be“ distinctly white but ethnically ambiguous ”.

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Dr Stephanie Damiano says this tendency causes some people to want to permanently change their facial features.

A study from Monash University showed that selfie filters can boost the uptake of cosmetic procedures in young people. The researchers interviewed 34 young people between the ages of 16 and 18 and found that even the youngest wanted cosmetic procedures to make them look like their filtered selfies.

And there are studies from China to the United States that have looked at this trend. US research conducted by the John Hopkins School of Medicine asked 252 people about their use of social media apps, including photo filters. He found that those who reported using these tools had “increased acceptance of cosmetic surgery.”

Dalisay Amena admits she used filters when she didn’t feel good about herself and “compared to myself in filters”.

Since then, Amena has stopped using the filters.

“I’m much happier now. I still play with makeup and take pictures. Not so much with filters.”

Should influencers tell you when they used a filter?

And as the debate on the impact of these filters on beauty standards intensifies, steps are being taken to regulate their application.

In Britain, the advertising authority has ruled that filters should not be applied to social media ads if they exaggerate the effect of the product.

This followed a social media campaign that pressured influencers to report when they use a beauty filter to promote skin care or beauty products.

Dr Damiano says that while regulations like the UK advertising ban are welcome moves, they fail to address what is at the heart of the problem.

“A lot of these celebrities and influencers still naturally fit the beauty ideals of society,” she says. Dr Damiano mentions studies that have examined the impact of tagging images that have been altered or where filters have been used.

“And what this research shows is that it doesn’t actually improve the body image of people who have viewed these images and in fact may not be very helpful.”

How to deal with social media (without detoxifying yourself completely)

As apps gain popularity, the use of beauty filters isn’t going away anytime soon. And while they’re fun, we can all be vulnerable and feel insecure about how we look when bombarded with beautiful faces.

Dr Damiano has the following advice for anyone who feels affected by these images:

  1. 1.Check with yourself. Does it have an impact on how you feel about yourself and your appearance? If this is the case, Dr Damiano suggests stopping using the filters and seeking help if needed.
  2. 2.No longer follow or mute anyone it doesn’t make you feel good about yourself. Instead, Dr Damiano suggests following narratives that promote body positivity and feature a range of diverse body shapes and sizes.
  3. 3.Showcase your authentic self online, in the way that works best for you. Dr Damiano adds that posting images that aren’t just selfies, like hobbies and other interests, can also contribute to a healthier social media experience.

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