Filtering Reality

Filtering Reality

Changing the shape, size, and color of women’s facial features perpetuates a culture of low self-worth

It used to be body positivity that was all the rage. 

Instagram influencers took to the grid with pictures of their relaxed stomachs when they sat or makeup-less faces in the morning or unwashed hair thrown into a perfect messy bun. Several variations of the #bodypositive hashtag sat beneath their “authentic, yet curated”, images. And that was that. 

Suddenly, we were all body positive. Or we were supposed to be. 

The intention behind the body positive movement meant well, I think, but, like most social media trends, the execution was less than stellar and ended up causing more harm than good. 

One of the problems surrounding body positivity is that it excludes folks who don’t feel particularly positive about their bodies. What about those who are recovering from disordered eating? What about those who have body dysmorphia? What about the ones who are simply living in their body because that’s the best they can do that day?

There’s a hashtag for that.

Enter #bodyneutrality. 

Body neutrality is unlike body positivity, in that we don’t necessarily have to feel positive about our bodies, but instead should feel neutral and adopt the mindset that “this is my body, and it is what it is.” 

I like the idea of body neutrality. 

I like the idea of existing in my body and nurturing what it can do for me regardless of how it looks or how I feel like it looks on any given day. But I also like body positivity, too. I understand the importance of embarking on the journey to self-acceptance and pride in our whole selves, but that takes time, and we need the space and a supportive environment to nurture our own variation of self-love. 

And social media, with its filters and curated feeds and skewed reality, just ain’t it.

With the rise of Instagram and influencers, our perception of beauty and worth has shifted from one’s own individual ideal and preference to a “standard” set by society and influencing. And while I realize it is a legitimate job, influencers can sometimes cause more harm than good.

The act of influencing is a strange concept to wrap your mind around, because, in a way, aren’t we all influencers? And if we are influencers, isn’t it our job to ensure the content we’re sharing promotes a healthy mind, body, and spirit? You know… to influence others to do the same? Especially if we’re getting paid for it?

With the rise of influencing came the rise of curated Instagram feeds. And with curation, comes a strive for perfectionism. As for a social media platform primarily used for picture-sharing, it was only a matter of time before the desire for perfection made a direct attack on a woman’s face.

Apart from photo editing apps like FaceTune, Lightroom, and Snapseed, filters have made their way into Instagram stories, so, even in proposed moments of authenticity of simply talking to the camera, one has the option to choose a filter that will widen their eyes, make their lips fuller, whiten their teeth, change the shape of their face, and even make them tan with blue eyes. 

And what’s the purpose of this other than to slather the preferred physical traits on women everywhere? 

“I will never use these filters,” says Kaitlin, an Instagram user. “I don’t want to contribute to the toxicity of filtered life. As someone who has struggled with body dysmorphia and an eating disorder BEFORE these were a thing, I can only imagine how difficult it is for people to cope with being their true selves amid a barrage of perfectly altered photos and videos of themselves and others.”

I agree. They’ve got to go.

The other day, I was scrolling through Instagram stories, and I gasped at the sight of this filter called “baby face”, which is a filter that makes your lips look like Kylie Jenner’s and turns your eyes light green/blue. It was jarring to see. 

A filter morphing your face to resemble a baby’s face (which is creepy, especially in a world where underage women are perpetually sexualized, but I digress) is not marketed the same as a filter that hovers objects above your head to see which Trader Joe’s product you are (I am bagel seasoning, by the way – loved by all, but sometimes unavailable). 

The baby face filter is marketed to individuals, namely women, who wish they looked different. 

And that’s just the damn truth, and it breaks my heart.

“Even with my years of therapy and working on accepting myself, I have found that I have been struggling more with my imperfections since these filters have become more commonplace. I want to live in a world where we can wholeheartedly and unabashedly accept ourselves and others as we are: zits, wrinkles, cellulite, and all,” said Kaitlin.

The majority of social media filters we see enhance certain parts of a woman’s face and mask other areas, and let’s think about the areas they highlight and don’t. 

The eyes are always first to be made larger and brighter, which creates the “doe-eyed” appearance that is portrayed as “most favorable” in society. The lips are made larger for reasons unbeknownst to me, but I can only conclude it’s because larger lips are sexier to men for, well, you do the math there. The teeth are whitened, and in some cases, straightened. There are flecks of glitter or sparkles in our eyeballs. There is an artificial tan on our skin. 

And our face is often sculpted into a heart-shaped face, because heaven forbid a woman have cheeks, a rounded jawline, or a double chin. And what does this say to women, like me, and like many of you out there, who do have a fuller face?

“The filters always make my chin more pointed and smaller and cut out my little double chin. I feel like this has definitely made me more self-conscious about seeing it in photos not on Instagram and Snapchat,” says Abigail, another Instagram user.

I know exactly what it says. It very clearly says that the way we look sans filter isn’t beautiful enough. And we’re buying into it. And it’s bullshit. 

So the next time you fire up your Instagram stories to share with your followers about how you’re excited for your virtual therapy session, or remembering to take some time for self-care, or just to “pop in and say hey”, maybe try recording and sharing just as you are. 

You know, like, be yourself. 

Show us who you are without a filter. Take off the mask. Stop hiding your “imperfections”, which aren’t imperfect at all – they’re normal. 

Because there’s absolutely nothing wrong with you or the size of your eyes and lips or the shape of your face, but there’s everything wrong with buying into a culture that perpetuates an idea that women are supposed to look a certain way in order to be beautiful.

The constant attack on women and our appearance has got to end. And it starts with you. So, while you might not be getting a paycheck from a brand to post a #sponsored image, you are still an influencer, and dare I say  even more of an influential voice in a world that tries to repress women’s voices everywhere than the barrage of Like to Know Its and Swipe Up for outfit deets out there.

Use your voice. Let us see your face. And go change the world. It starts with one person. And that person is you.



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