Not so long ago, taking a photo was an easy and simple process. You’d probably need to fiddle around a little with the zoom, or the focus, but that aside, one click of a button or tap of the screen would be enough to capture that moment in your life. What later became known as the selfie was a rarer occurrence, and filters were an unrealised phenomenon.
Our motivations for taking a photo have changed considerably in the past decade. The introduction of the smartphone has facilitated the emergence of the selfie, meaning photos have become more about expressions of vanity and insecurity than of art and reflection. Thanks to Snapchat and Instagram, our main preoccupation when taking individual or group photos are which filters to use, the angle needed and making sure that you, more than anyone else, are showing your ‘best side.’
“Photos have become more about expressions of vanity and insecurity than of art and reflection,”
Today, selfies are everywhere. It is impossible to scroll through your news feed without seeing at least five. And arguably, there is nothing inherently wrong with that. It can be contested that the selfie is a form of self – expression, one that is deeply ingrained into the young adult culture. Even if we wanted to, we could not get away from them. They are everywhere.
It is the combination of the selfie culture with filters, however, that is the problem. Every day, millions of people, particularly girls, will choose an edited version of themselves over their real face to put online. These filtered versions can make their skin smoother, eyes and lips bigger, and face more angular. It feeds into our perception of what beauty is.
Of course, other filters on Snapchat have lighter intentions. We can now give ourselves dog ears and noses, sunglasses, or even a traffic cone hat. However, even these filters come with their own airbrushing features. Regardless of the type of filter, the impact on our mental wellbeing can still be disastrous.
“Regardless of the type of filter, the impact on our mental wellbeing can still be disastrous.”
Using these filters warps our sense of what it is to be attractive, a concept that is highly subjective anyway. Inevitable comparisons between the real and the fake leave us with feelings of disappointment and even self-loathing when we see our true faces. It is well known that such feelings can lead to experiencing depression, anxiety and low self-esteem, conditions that effect one in four people at some point in their lives.
According to The Guardian, the use of snapchat filters have been linked to a rise in cosmetic surgery requests. 55% of plastic surgeons have reported clients expressing a wish for plastic surgery that will ‘make them look better in their selfies.’ The distress that is caused by the use of snapchat filters, leading to many seeking to alter themselves in this way has been labelled ‘Snapchat Dysmorphia’. Doctors have also argued that these filters provide more than idealistic standards of beauty, stating that these standards which many aspire to are literally unattainable and unhuman.
“55% of plastic surgeons have reported clients expressing a wish for plastic surgery that will ‘make them look better in their selfies.’”
It is also safe to say that these filters have interrupted our ability to accept ourselves for who we are. How can we be confident in our appearance if we can artificially change it with a swipe of the screen? Scientifically speaking, there is no way that we can make ourselves look aesthetically ‘perfect’ – so why do we keep trying? Instead of wasting our lives wishing we had smaller noses or smoother skin, or to look like we do on our profile pictures, we should learn to love ourselves unconditionally again. It is time to live our lives free.
It is time to live our lives unfiltered.