I'm Worried About What Social Media Filters Are Doing To Our Daughters' Self Esteem

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When I first heard about Instagram in 2012, I downloaded the app but quickly stopped using it. I would feel overwhelmed when I looked at other accounts because it seemed like everyone else looked better and had a better life, so I left it alone for a few years before revisiting it.

I had no idea what a filter was in 2012, and I believe I was better for it. It wasn’t until around 2016 when my daughter got her phone that I learned what a filter was. I have to admit, I got into Instagram then and I had my fun with them. It felt good to see myself all flawless and shit. My under eye circles were erased, my eyes looked bigger, lashes fuller, and I definitely used them when I posted a picture of myself from time to time.

I’ve had to stop, though. The thing about the filters is they started to make me feel worse about myself. I know how I look in real life, and I certainly don’t look the way a filter makes me look. One evening I was having dinner with a friend when she snapped a picture of us and uploaded our faces into a Facetune app, something else I didn’t know existed.

In seconds my teeth were whiter, my face looked like porcelain, and it looked like I’d actually gotten a full night’s rest at some point in the near past, which I hadn’t as I was going through a divorce.

She told me she never posted a picture without putting her face and body through a few apps first and it made me wonder how many times I’d been scrolling through a feed, seeing someone who had done that, and left feeling really bad about myself.

Probably a lot. As you can tell, I’m a bit behind the times when it comes to all the ways you can alter yourself online.

I am a grown woman who feels like I’ve had a lot of life experience and I should know better than to compare myself but I still struggle with that.

Lately, I’ve been obsessed with watching influencers share their thoughts about makeup products or doing try-ons. I love clothes, fashion, and beauty. I used to be in the industry and being able to connect with other women who are just as obsessed putting outfits together is a form of therapy for me.

Anyway, I noticed these past few months of the pandemic (after watching more than normal) how bad I’ve begun to feel about myself. I’ve been thinking I needed to do something with my eyebrows, change my hair, maybe do more contouring and wear more makeup. In short, I’ve been thinking I need to throw away my face and get a new one.

It wasn’t until my daughter pointed out to me all the women I am watching do try-ons are recording their Instagram stories using a filter. I see words in the corner like “Beach Tan Cam by sophie” but I had no idea what it meant. I just thought they looked way better and younger than I did.

So, I did a little experiment and took a picture of myself without a filter, then using some of these filters everyone us filming themselves with.

I thought for sure it would give me some insight into what it did, but I have to be honest: it’s taken me quite a bit of time to really realize these are filters I am looking at. It’s as if my heart and mind are having a hard time catching up with the facts.

Knowing these are filters hasn’t washed all of the insecurities they have caused me, which isn’t an easy thing to admit. I’m 45 — I should know better, right?

My daughter then told me that there’s a filter that’s making people want to get a nose job, called ‘Belle” on Instagram. I had to take a look for myself and see what all the talk was about.

Image of me using “Belle” filter on Instagram

I have three teenagers who love their phones, and are on them a lot. I have a daughter who has asked me about every kind of surgery imaginable. Now I know why.

I truly believe she’s unable to see her own beauty because of how much she gets fed images that have been distorted by filters and different apps, not to mention each picture and video was carefully constructed.

I have a hard enough time as her mother to see past the madness. It can still bring me down about myself even though I can see proof of a filter, or know someone in real life and tell that they alter their pictures like my friend.

This is fucking with everyone, but especially our teenage girls and young women.

I can limit my daughter’s phone time and remind her these images or videos aren’t real. I can tell her how beautiful she is and that comparing herself to others is the fastest way to self-sabotage.

But, this is what they are all looking at and seeing all the damn time. It affects their self esteem. It makes them feel less than and like they need to change themselves. Even if they realize they are filters, it doesn’t register that way.

Peace Amadi, PsyD, is a psychology professor at Hope International University in California who tells Women’s Health, “Instagram has been tied to anxiety and depressive symptoms, but also to concerns such as anxiety related to physical appearance, increased body dissatisfaction, and lower self-esteem.”

And now that we are home more and we are on these apps more than ever, it’s started to blur the lines even more from what people look like in real life, and what they can do with a few filters.

This is a PSA from one mother of another: Check on your kids. Have a talk with them about these filters, watch how much they are using them or watch people who use them.

Because believe me, it’s affecting them. We need to make sure there’s dialogue around it, tell them it’s not normal to look like these filters, and do everything we can to normalize what people look like without them.

For me, that means to stop using them myself and not to compare myself to a damn face tuned photo again.

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