How Instagram’s Plastic Filters Distort Young Girls’ Idea of Beauty

At the beginning, it was just a pair of dog ears.

That was the most used Instagram filter. But to be honest it was quite nice. I mean, who doesn’t want a pair of floppy dog ears and a broad nose? The augmented reality tongue licking the screen whenever users opened their mouths was a bit tackier. But, whatever, it still seemed kind of cool.

Then it was all about freckles.

And again, not too bad. Honestly, they look good on everyone, so I see why my Instagram feed was flooded with freckled selfies adorned with flowers, stars or similar accessories. 

But now we are at a point of no return. Since Instagram added filters that replicate plastic surgery, it has reached rock bottom.

I am talking about filters that slim your face, smooth your skin, and elongate your jaw. When you use them, they make you look like a fake version of yourself, like if you had varying forms of plastic surgery, including cheek and lip fillers, a nose job, brow lifts, and skin-smoothing botox.

Plastics, LVBeauty, Top Model Look, Holy Natural and Perfect Face are just the most common Instagram surrealist filters.

Most people are obsessed with how these filters make them appear, despite the fact that they look more like an alien than a human being.

Likes, comments, and also compliments on these filtered images reinforce the belief that this is the right appearance, the right face to show on a daily basis. To the point that this habit is now acknowledged as an actual disease.

It is called Snapchat Dysmorphia, which leads to a chronic and unmotivated concern for an alleged physical defect.

It basically means that teenagers are undergoing plastic surgery to look like they do in their filtered selfies.

As the consultant surgeon Niall Kirkpatrick, a member of the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS), said to the Huffington Post earlier this year:  “Demand is increasing for lip fillers in particular, especially in the young 18-24 year age group.”

In October, after complaints and concerns on people’s mental health, Instagram announced that it will remove all the augmented reality filters that promote cosmetic surgery.

The app, which is owned by Facebook, said the ban was to promote wellbeing: ”We’re re-evaluating our policies – we want our filters to be a positive experience for people.”

A spokesman continued: ”While we’re re-evaluating our policies, we will remove all effects associated with plastic surgery.”

Now my question is: will this Instagram ban on plastic surgery filters actually make us accept our real life faces? Would this be enough?

Snapchat Dysmorphia fishes in the collective imagination of a narcissistic society moved by obsession, frustration and social competition based on appearance.

Don’t get me wrong, every little bit helps, or at least sparks conversation. But in our intensely visual culture, I think this is a pretty meagre gesture. The issue goes way beyond a few filters, it is more about a range of practices and norms that sites like Instagram have introduced into our lives.

Written by Miriam Tagini 
Follow Miriam on Instagram & Twitter

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