Social media apps allow us to do a lot of cool things. One of the most popular features – selfie filters! Not only can we share pictures of ourselves whenever we want, but now social media apps are providing filters that alter our photos however we like. These filters can include anything from giving ourselves puppy or bunny ears to fixing our perceived imperfections. You don’t have to try very hard to find a filter that can sharpen your cheek bones, smooth your skin, thin your nose, and achieve the coveted ‘airbrushed model’ look. If these apps and filters can help us look ‘better’, then what’s the problem? Can social media filters affect our mental health?
The issue has been coined “snapchat dysmorphia” by cosmetic surgeons. This social media age constantly subjects us to pictures of ourselves. There is plenty of opportunity to scrutinize appearance and obsess over perceived flaws. When you alter a photo of yourself using social media filters, you may feel you’ve created a better looking version of yourself. You might also feel like this is what you should look like in real life. Cosmetic surgeons notice that more people bring social media filtered selfies to consultations. They point out what they feel needs to be fixed based off of these altered photos. In many cases, the requests they make are not even physically possible. Selfie dysmorphia isn’t a medically recognized condition, but shares ties with serious mental health issues.
The Mental Health Impact
A study investigating the link between social media use and body-related behavior among adolescent girls found negative mental health results. Results showed that participants who shared selfies online reported higher levels of body dissatisfaction. Selfie manipulation also related to greater body-related concerns. Studies show that negative body image creates a higher risk of anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts in teens.
Cosmetic surgeons also have a growing concern around body dysmorphic disorder. BDD is classified on the obsessive compulsive spectrum; it is the excessive preoccupation with imagined flaws in one’s appearance. It can be difficult for doctors to distinguish between a person with unrealistic expectations of plastic surgery and a patient experiencing dysmorphic thoughts. A John Hopkins study found that plastic surgeons could only identify around 5% of patients who had screened positively for body dysmorphic disorder.
Want to know something ironic? You are in no position to judge your own appearance. Dr. Patrick Byrne, director of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Department at the Johns Hopkins University puts it this way: “The only face in the world that you can never see is your own,”
You will only ever see pictures or reflections of yourself. Have you noticed that you can look drastically different from one photo to another? Pictures and reflections are not fully reliable sources for your image. With that in mind, altering pictures of yourself is pretty pointless. All this does is create one unreliable image from another. Also, most people won’t even notice the ‘imperfections’ you may find in pictures of yourself.
Filters can certainly be a fun toy, however, they don’t dictate how we are ‘supposed’ to look. A filtered version of you is not a ‘better’ version. If selfies and filters have you feeling down about yourself try taking a break from your phone, and remember: