When I first stumbled across it in the app, my reaction was similar to everyone else’s. I couldn’t believe how realistic it looked and immediately wanted to try it out for myself – a little more glow never hurt anyone. But the filter distorted my face beyond recognition. With one click, I was “westernized” by the filter – just like I’d been trying to do with face tape and makeup for years.
My eyes looked bigger and brighter, my jawline was more defined, my nose looked smaller, my lips looked bigger, my skin was more tanned, and the list goes on.
I felt like I was looking at the exact version I wanted to be, and that’s what I find so problematic about this filter. Because it threw me back in my self-acceptance to see myself like this and all the thoughts that I might be prettier if I were more like this “Western” filter self were all there again.
Psychologist Alexis Conason explains why we fall so easily to the lure of the filter
The reality is: beauty trends can be just as brutal as they can be encouraging. And: “Filters like ‘Bold Glamour’ are problematic because they can lead us to believe that it’s possible to still look like the filtered ‘mirror image’ that’s looking at us from our phone screen, and that that version of us is more desirable than our actual selves,” explains psychologist and author Alexis Conason.
“It can make us strive for that narrow definition of beauty and feel like there’s something wrong with us if we don’t achieve it,” she adds. Conason also notes that these filters can also lead to the development of “pervasive body image dissatisfaction, eating disorders, low self-esteem, and other psychological issues.”
So what can we do to not get bogged down in these stereotypical notions of beauty?
Conason advises, “Don’t be afraid to take breaks from social media if you feel like it’s negatively impacting your self-esteem. Unfollow accounts that make you feel bad or promote narrow, limited, and idealized versions of beauty. Actively follow accounts that showcase the diversity of body shapes and promote inclusive representations of beauty.”
Ultimately, beauty should be about self-expression and a celebration of individuality, not something that pigeonholes us so that we can consider ourselves “attractive” to society. Perhaps it helps to realize that the “Western” ideal of beauty, above all white physical traits as attractive is found in less than 10% of the world’s population. The question we should take away from this is: How do we go about actively changing our notion of the “gold standard” and making a large part of the people of our globe, in all their diversity, more visible? For starters, stopping using filters that obscure this diversity can be a small but important step.
By the way: GLAMOR reached out to TikTok for comment and received the following statement: “Staying true to yourself is celebrated and encouraged on TikTok. Creative effects are part of what makes creating content fun and encourages self-expression and creativity. Transparency is built into the effects experience as all videos using these effects are clearly labeled by default. We continue to work with knowledgeable partners and our community to make TikTok a positive, supportive place for everyone.”
Maybe you can’t expect anything else from a company that makes money from people covering up their flaws with elaborate filters. In any case, what we take away from Denise’s essay is that in the future we will take a very close look at which beauty pictures are actually being advertised on social media – and which groups of people are being made invisible in this way.
This article comes from our GLAMOR colleagues from UK