By Lynn Cadet

This year, I had made the long-awaited switch from a powder-based foundation to a liquid one. I was excited to update my makeup and try something with more coverage. This foundation achieved a quality my other makeup bases could never. I instantly loved the results and thought it melted into my complexion perfectly. 

However, when it came to removing my new foundation, I found myself disappointed with what I saw in the mirror. I started to nitpick tiny flaws here and there. It was an experience I never had with my old lighter coverage foundation.

So what does my makeup conundrum have to do with social media filters and the effect they have on mental health A lot! 

Just like my foundation, filters alter your facial features to arguably enhance your beauty. Both of these beautification tools can lead to dissatisfaction in our natural appearance and confusion of realities. 

It’s easy to get caught up in the filter galore of Instagram and Snapchat and lose sight of what’s real and what’s not. First, it started with cute puppy dog ears, then shifted to augmenting our faces to manifest fuller lips and airbrushed finishes for flawless skin. 

Becoming too familiar with your newfound digital complexion can make your reality feel foreign when you see yourself without a filter. Examining our faces to see where we don’t match up is slowly becoming the norm, making many of us feel that our natural appearances are inadequate. 

To achieve the impossible beauty standards social media falsely alludes to, people seek plastic surgery and fillers to appease their lack of confidence in their beautiful, unique selves. 

Yes, filters have their upsides, and you probably enjoy using them to make your posts pop. But we can’t let them distort our realities and stain our confidence.   

Let’s dive deeper into social media filters’ effects on mental health and ways to protect it from manipulation. 

The Unrealistic Standards Associated With Filters

The perceptions we see on social media can be wildly different from genuine reality. Whether it’s FOMO or body image standards, social media influences and shifts our standards in a blink of an eye as a global collective. Its worldwide connectivity does have impeccable benefits. But as we look at global influencers imitating and possessing similar facial features, many of us start to think this is the standard we need to achieve.. So we apply filters.

In a single click, we have doe eyes, pouty lips, and refined noses. Convenient, right? Not really. 

As it becomes more difficult for you to dissociate your facial features from retouched ones, you feel dissatisfied with your real appearance when the mask comes down. 

Comparing social media beauty and physical imperfections can cause immense emotional distress. Research shows that social media increases the risk of anxiety, low self-esteem, and depression.

According to the journal Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications, the brain only recognises about 60% of manipulated images, meaning most people can’t separate a filtered photo from an untouched one. This issue leads to body comparison and self-image issues, creating issues with mental health and self-confidence. 

It’s imperative to recognise not everything you see online is real, so you can protect yourself from their influences. 

Ways To Protect Your Self-Esteem For Better Mental Health

  • Filter Out Your Follow List- Your follow list should include accounts helping you to pursue body positivity. Find people who promote real beauty standards and celebrate all body types. The pressure to fit in or uphold a perfect body image begins to fade away once you relieve yourself of negative influences. The first step is to unfollow accounts that make you feel negatively towards your body image.
  • Put Your Phone Down- Take a timeout and give yourself a mental health break on the social media front. By removing yourself online, the negative influences of filters will be more difficult to reach you. If you’re experiencing depression or anxiety, it’s probably a good time to switch social media off and focus on self-care above all. 
  • Give Yourself Grace- Practice self-compassion and train your mind to think positively about yourself. By maintaining uplifting thoughts, you can begin to get your confidence back. Always be kind to yourself and accept your flaws. We all have them.
  • Find support- Seeking support from friends or a therapist can help you with your beauty woes and build your confidence. Talking to someone who will actually listen can ease the burden of those negative feelings. You don’t have to be alone in this.

Filters can leave damaging effects on our mental health and self-esteem. These beautification tools have created an added pressure to uphold impossible beauty standards even though they only exist on the Internet. We must remember to embrace what makes us unique and diverge from the unreal expectations of social media beauty.