Social media has become a virtual plastic surgeon for many people, with everyone looking for the perfect beauty filter for Instagram. From softening skin to whitening teeth, these filters have the potential to be detrimental to any user's self-image. Most beauty filters use deep learning, a process in which a computer is trained to recognize facial features from photographs of real faces. This has caused some controversy, as many people feel that these filters promote unrealistic beauty standards.
Recently, the No Beard filter went viral on TikTok and the Pillow Face filter went viral on Instagram, with celebrities even using it. But images can still be edited externally and reloading them into the app's tag filters or deleting them all together doesn't seem to be enough to slow down the search for perfection. It's no surprise, then, that the rise of facial filters and editing applications has been correlated with the increase in cosmetic surgeries. Using and viewing a filter intended to make you look prettier has the potential to be detrimental to any user's self-image.
If TikTok filters use a similar learning process, it's the company's responsibility to ensure that the computer is trained on a diverse set of faces. Snapchat has no specific restrictions on altering or embellishing filters sent by users through the platform's “Lens Lab”, but a company spokesman says the app's focus on private, rather than public, communication sets it apart from other social networks. The people behind TikTok (or Instagram or Snapchat) filters have a responsibility to create them for each audience. Users will set Beyonce — Countdown as the audio, and as she counts she will apply the filter over and over again until you literally see yourself fresh out of a very photoshopped magazine session.
But even for those not looking for cosmetic adjustments, using face filters and editing apps can have serious health consequences. In this online airbrushed environment, everyone now has access to their own virtual plastic surgeon. And with Botox and less invasive fillers becoming less and less expensive, it's not just celebrities and retirees looking for young people getting that “better me” anymore; it's also rich millennials and Gen Z members too. It is important to remember that these beauty filters are not real life and should not be taken too seriously. It is important to take care of yourself both mentally and physically and not rely on these filters to make you feel better about yourself.