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Photo filters: simply harmless or dooming our generation?

If I have a bad skin day or I’m simply exhausted and the eye bags have made an appearance for the morning, the narcissistic monster living inside of me still wants to come out and play. Without hesitating or even wondering how I can send a Snapchat or Instagram story of me looking above average in the below average state that I’m in, I quickly add filters to manipulate my face shape to be smaller, eyes bigger and skin to be absolute perfection. Satisfied, I put my phone down and go about the rest of my day with a dreaded subconscious overflowing me with desperation for someone to send back, “you’re so beautiful.”

But this isn’t us. Why is it that we can live out our days thinking that we look like the version of ourselves that we’ve edited manually using airbrush apps and selected filters to cover our flaws. This isn’t a boost of confidence, it’s setting ourselves up to feel like we’re constantly failing to look perfect. The eeriest part is that we’ve already normalised this behaviour.

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Our parents didn’t grow up in this generation. They didn’t have iPhones or apps, they only had cameras and definitely didn’t spend an entire evening at pre-drinks taking over a hundred photos to then ‘favourite’ their top five, to then airbrush them and ask their friends “which one is the best?”. This behaviour, that I am also guilty of, is time-consuming and actually quite disturbing. We have successfully constructed a narcissistic society, and the kids and adolescents of this generation are the ones who will be hit the hardest.

As we live in ‘selfie era,’ I watch young kids who I babysit play around with Snapchat filters for hours and saying “I look so much better in this.” A pre-teen with perfectly beautiful and flawless olive skin that I would die for is actually saying this, and it isn’t okay.

filters are for suckers

We are all beautiful in our own unique way, but of course, no one wants to hear that today. Our favourite Instagram influencers and celebrities have designed a culture that we are all exposed to, and the mantra is to look great at all times, no matter the situation. Our ‘relatable’ social media influencers might share something extremely serious and personal, yet they use a puppy dog filter to hide their tears and avoid exposing anything about themselves that could be judged; attempting to be as less human as possible. As an audience, we do joke about the fact that they used a dog filter, a playful choice to use for a serious topic of discussion, but don’t they just look fabulous? And then without fail, we follow the trend, whether we realise it or not; because it’s normal, everyone’s doing it.

Since we are living in a society that dotes on the idea of perfection, there are people who are taking things to the next level; using cosmetic surgery to look like their favourite Instagram and Snapchat filters in real life, all day and every day. Scientists call this “Snapchat dysmorphia”. The people who influence us on social media, including our own friends, are the easiest to blame as they are responsible for creating trends; some of them are now living and breathing social media filters and we want to be just like them.

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Sadly we are all aware of this already; this isn’t really new information to us or even that surprising. However, the fact that this superficial online behaviour of simply using a filter seems harmless to us is in fact really worrying. My small piece of advice to control any of the mental and emotional damage you may have caused for yourself over the years where social media was present in your life is to filter out the filters; simply try to avoid using them. I dare you all to take a spontaneous photo of yourselves and to really look at who you are; natural, organic and human. What could be more beautiful?