Social media filters and how they are working against body positivity and self-esteem.

Are social media filters affecting your self-esteem?

Are social media filters affecting your self-esteem?

By Kristy Gargano, LSW, CYT

Have you ever been on Snapchat, or another social media platform, and started using beautifying filters and all of a sudden you accidentally click out of it and see how your face actually looks? Maybe you frantically try to get the filter back, or maybe you’re thinking “Yikes, what’s going on with my face?”. Has that ever happened to you? Yeah... me neither. Actually, if I’m honest with all of you, this has happened to me. It’s like when you go to take a picture and your rear facing camera is on and the screen displays THE WORST angle of your face. You have the image now? So do I, and it actually makes me laugh. I digress. 

 As innocent and fun as these filters may seem, they are sending a message that we are more attractive when the amazingly unique features given to us at birth are modified. Having a smaller nose, bigger lips and eyes, smoother skin are the crux of many snap chat filters that have now spread to other social media platforms (Facebook and Instagram). As if there wasn’t enough for us to worry about on the internet, we now have these filters *telling us*, “You look alright, but let me completely reconfigure your face so it looks more aesthetically pleasing”. Yep, here we are, trying so damn hard to combat nasty comments from others, work through negative self-talk, and compete with the media’s expectations of beauty, and now THIS?!? How will we ever win?

 Take this mini quiz to find out if social media filters are impacting your self-esteem and body image negatively.

1.     Do I mostly post photos of myself with filters on them?

2.     What is my intention behind using this filter? Is it because I’m not feeling “good enough”, “pretty enough”, or am I uncomfortable in some way about how I look naturally?

3.     Does using this filter make me feel worse about how I look without the filter? 

4.     Am I hoping or wanting to gain more “likes” or positive comments by posting this filtered image?  

 Answering “Yes” to any or all of these may be an indication that continuous use of filters is impacting you negatively. Ultimately, everything is about finding balance. I am not saying never use face-enhancing filters if you’re feeling down about yourself. I would simply encourage you to come back to the question “What is my intention?”. We have to set limits on things, and watch out for extremes (not going from the extreme of always using filters to the extreme of never using them). We have to create space for self-exploration and creativity on how we build ourselves up. In addition to the explorative questions above, there are ways we can mindfully and creatively build our self-esteem and self-worth. 

3 ways to counteract the potentially negative impact of social media filters.

I love takeaways. If you’ve read any of my other blogs, you will find that I like to provide little tangible “nuggets” to explore, ponder, or incorporate into your life. So, here’s a takeaway. Actually, it’s a challenge for myself and all of you, should you accept it. 

 1.    Find ONE thing about yourself that you like and value and think positive thoughts about that. Do this often. Do this every day, at least once, no matter how weird or difficult it may seem. Journal about it, put it on sticky notes and place them around your personal living space, or write that amazing affirmation on your mirror in lipstick or special markers for windows/mirrors. 

2.     Practice taking ONE filter-less picture of yourself, and be ok with that. We tend to take several pictures (even selfies, when we are looking right at us), and try to find the perfect angle. Want to know a secret? Perfect isn't a thing.

3.     Pick ONE friend who builds you up in some way, and take time to acknowledge how he/she/they impact your life positively. My newest obsession is sending snail mail, and guess how that started… My friend who supports me and builds me up sends ME cards. When we find people who build us up, we in turn tend to reciprocate in our own way. *Side note: you can pick more than one friend, I just liked the pattern of “ONE”.

 If starting this challenge feels too overwhelming or scary, and for many this may be the case, finding a therapist to safely discuss these struggles is a great place to start. Even if you don’t use filters to modify the way you look, having low self-esteem and/or poor body image can impact how we interact with others, and how we care for ourselves. Sometimes we just need a little extra help and support.