We live in a world today where the personas reflected on social media are neither realistic nor accurate. Social media has unfortunately become a glorified highlight reel of altered and filtered photos, making it difficult to discern how someone truly looks and feels. Sites such as Instagram and Snapchat have become known for their comical filters that modify a user’s face and voice, which is widely popular for entertainment purposes. However, Instagram took their filter developments a bit too far in recent months when it introduced filters that simulate cosmetic surgery.
The backlash for this promotion was extensive. In fact, Instagram announced in late October that it will remove these filters due to concerns that they are detrimental to the mental health of young people. The announcement said Instagram “wants their filters to be a positive experience.”
This backlash does not come as a shock to me, and I think it is completely justified. While social media can be a positive tool, it can also be a toxic environment that negatively influences America’s youth. Now more than ever, young people look to celebrities and influencers in order to keep up on the latest fashion and beauty trends. However, many people don’t realize the photos they try to emulate are so heavily retouched that the look portrayed in them is unattainable. The cosmetic surgery filter is the culmination of the warped reality that is social media. When young people see themselves under the guise of this filter, they may not see it as funny but rather as a model for how they should look.
These controversial filters can be harmful to one’s self-esteem and could lead young people to undergo surgeries in order to achieve a certain appearance. When massive companies such as Instagram make choices at the corporate level, they need to keep in mind that they are potentially marketing to a critically young and impressionable audience. Nowadays, many young people experience a desire to be perfect and that is largely due to what is portrayed on social media. People think they have to look a specific way in order to be liked and accepted, turning social media in some cases into a source of stress and anxiety rather than a frivolous escape.
It’s imperative to be aware of how social media is affecting young people’s mental health. While Instagram’s move to eliminate these filters is a good call, I think the underlying problem is much bigger than a multi-million dollar company’s reputation. We need to place less importance on perfectly editing a photo or how many likes that photo will get, and start paying more attention to people face to face. More in-person presence, communication and attention are what young people are lacking. We need to stop putting pressure on ourselves and on others to be physically perfect as well as understand that social media, in the long run, doesn’t really matter, it’s the people in our lives and the priceless moments we spend with them that do.
Nicole Macias is a senior majoring in English.