Face Filters and Body Dissatisfaction
Face filters are a form of augmented reality (AR) technology that can modify real-world images to create 3D graphics. They’re often used to enhance images of people and animals, but can also be a way for brands to engage with customers in a new way.
These filters rely on computer vision and image processing models that can modify a video feed in real time. They can detect a face’s features and apply a range of distorting effects to the video in order to alter a person’s appearance.
For example, the TikTok skinny filter makes a user appear to have thinner and smaller face features, while the Instagram perfect face filter adjusts facial features to what is supposedly an ideal ratio. The results are very realistic, enabling users to see their faces transformed in front of their eyes.
While the face filters have become an essential tool for some social media users, they have been accused of promoting unrealistic and unattainable beauty standards. They have also been associated with body dissatisfaction and self-esteem problems.
The distorted images created by these filters can be particularly dangerous for young people, who are still developing their identities and negotiating between their digital and authentic selves. The stark and immediate comparison between one’s actual appearance and the altered version is especially likely to create a strong contrast that can be a trigger for feelings of body dissatisfaction, low self-esteem, and other mental health issues.
A study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships found that young people who used a face filter were more likely to feel depressed or anxious than those who did not. They also reported being less self-compassionate when comparing themselves to the face-altering filter and less likely to accept their own physical flaws.
Educators, mental health professionals and parents should take the time to explain these tools and their use to teens and young adults, so that they understand the negative impact that these technologies can have on their bodies and minds. They can ask teens and young adults what they know about these apps, how they use them and how the filters make them feel.
They should also encourage them to look at their own body and self-image and ask them if they are confident with how they currently see themselves. This may help them overcome body dissatisfaction and improve their confidence.
These filters are especially problematic for adolescent girls, who are at an incredibly vulnerable time in their development, when they are navigating between their digital and their authentic selves. They are increasingly using social media to develop their identity, and are likely to be influenced by images of other teenagers’ bodies.
They’re also increasingly using social media to find love and friendships, and are more likely to use a face filter when they’re feeling lonely or sad. They can become highly dependent on these tools, which can have serious long-term consequences. These young people have also been found to be more likely to develop anxiety and depression, and to seek out help for mental health issues.