Katherine McCabe / Gavel Media

The Harm of Social Media Filters

While taking selfies and using filters on social media platforms isn’t a new phenomena, the steady usage of these filters, especially on Instagram and Snapchat, has become second nature to many, including myself. All it takes is just a few quick taps on our devices to choose filters that may change our eye color, smooth our skin, make our lips bigger, elongate our eyelashes, and basically “clear up” any of our insecurities. These quick and easy adjustments have, unfortunately, become habituated and normalized. Our increased usage of filters on these social media platforms continue to distort our self-image and worth. While Instagram and Snapchat users are contributing to the distortion of self-image through filter use, ultimately the platforms themselves are to blame for creating the filters in the first place. 

Our obsession with perfecting our physical appearance by using artificial filters has been catalyzed through the supply-end of social media platforms that create these filters in the first place. Instagram and Snapchat have only heightened the tendency to use technology to mask our natural beauty. Our standard of beauty has evolved and makes us feel as though we need filters to make us feel prettier, more valued, and confident. 

The disparity between reality and virtual reality has negatively impacted the well-being and overall self-esteem of many who rely on social media to feel more beautiful and who want to fit into this feigned beauty standard. The difference between the true reflection of someone and what they now think they look like has become distorted by social media’s commercialization of beauty. In fact, many admittedly have gotten used to viewing themselves through the filters these social media platforms provide, rather than valuing their natural appearances without the ‘help’ of technology. Social media platforms constantly amplify this new genre of ‘idealized’ beauty that continues to degrade one’s honest view of themselves and harm our overall mental health.

The pervasive use of filters has not only made many of us forget what we truly look like, but also who we really are. Our confidence has become minimized to how many likes or how many comments of heart-eyes from our followers we can get. I too am guilty of this and have my ‘go-to filter’ on Snapchat that I feel enhances my exterior beauty. What this paradoxically has done, however, is slowly invade my overall perception of who I am and my own self-esteem. 

Ph.D. and psychology professor, Peace Amadi, studies the relation between psychology and social-media. She claims that “there’s a well-established link between social-media usage and psychological concerns,” acknowledging that, “Instagram has been tied to anxiety and depressive symptoms, but also to concerns such as anxiety related to physical appearance, increased body dissatisfaction, and lower self-esteem.” The constant production and widespread variety of filters, along with society’s increased reliance on technology, unfortunately, continues to heighten its negative psychological side-effects. There is a fairly new update on these social media platforms that tells viewers what Snapchat or Instagram filter someone is using. While this has monetary benefits for these platforms, it ultimately creates a domino-effect for users who will feel more inclined to try-out these filters everyone else is using. 

One may argue that these filters are just for fun and help us not take life so seriously, however, what this argument fails to acknowledge is the cost of gambling with our mental health and overall psychological well-being. When we look back at our stories or posts, are these photos really reminiscent of how we truly felt or are they just another fake smile we present to a newly virtual and artificial world?

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