WATCH — Why beauty filters might be messing with your self-esteem

Published 2021-09-20 02:38

From unrealistic beauty standards to low self-esteem, filters can do a number on us


Take a moment to be honest with yourself.

Have you ever played around with photo filters to spruce up a selfie?

Have you ever used an editing app like Facetune or Snapseed to change a thing or two about a photo of yourself?

Have you ever found yourself scrolling through Instagram, TikTok or Snapchat and comparing yourself to photos or videos of people on your feed?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, you’re not alone.

Photo editing and filters are widely used by kids these days.

Left, photo of Kids News contributor Isabelle MacNeil. Right, same photo but with drastic photo editing done on it.

We ran a selfie of CBC Kids News contributor Isabelle MacNeil through a photo editing app and the end result shocked even Isabelle herself! (Submitted by Isabelle MacNeil)

So much so that, according to a recent study by beauty company Dove Canada, 80 per cent of girls had downloaded a photo editing app and used it on their photos by the age of 13.

That same study also found that 37 per cent of girls feel they don’t look good enough without any photo filtering or editing.

Yeesh. That’s a lot of pressure to feel when you go to post a picture of yourself on your social channels.

Check out Isabelle’s video to learn more about the effects of filters:

Friends, family and filters

It’s obvious that most of the images we see of the biggest celebrities and influencers have gone through rounds and rounds of editing.

And you might think that this is where the pressure on young people to look perfect comes from.

Screenshots of TikTok videos about celebrity Photoshop fails.

Exposing celebrities’ and influencers’ ‘Photoshop fails’ has become a popular content topic on social media sites like TikTok and Instagram, as people are becoming hyper-aware of photo editing tactics. (Image credit: @exposinxfavs/TikTok, @photoshop.fails/TikTok, @kaila.yu/TikTok)

Turns out that’s not so much the case.

Instead, seeing filtered photos of normal, everyday people can actually be more harmful to people’s self-esteem.

“You’re comparing yourself to those images when those images aren’t real,” said Jennifer Mills, a psychology professor at Toronto’s York University who studies the effects of social media on mental health and body image. 

“You’re bound to feel as if you don’t measure up.”

Dropping the filter

If you’ve been editing your photos for a while, the thought of no longer doing so may be a little scary.

That was the experience of Sasha Pallari, a model and makeup artist based in the United Kingdom, who decided last year that she was going to stop editing her photos.

“I started noticing that my value of myself was based on what I was seeing through a filter,” said Pallari.

Screengrab of Sasha Pallari's Instagram post.

U.K.-based model and makeup artist Sasha Pallari set out in 2020 to no longer edit her social media photos (Credit: @sashalouisepallari/Instagram)

In making a promise to be kinder to herself, Pallari began posting her unedited photos on her social media with the hashtag #FILTERDROP.

The hashtag caught fire on Instagram, and thousands of people in different parts of the world joined Pallari in posting filter and edit-free selfies.

And it had a positive effect on how Pallari feels about herself.

“It was like a liberating feeling. The more and more I did it, the better I felt,” said Pallari.

Harder than it looks

Pallari acknowledged that for many people, giving up filters and editing can be difficult.

“This isn’t coming from a place of shame or judgment if you use filters, because I fully understand why people use them.”

To learn more about Pallari’s #FILTERDROP campaign, or to hear more about the effects on mental health caused by photo editing and filtering, check out this video from CBC Kids News contributor Isabelle MacNeil.

TOP IMAGE CREDIT: Graphic design by Kat Go

About the Contributor

Isabelle MacNeil
Isabelle MacNeil
CBC Kids News Contributor
Isabelle MacNeil is a Grade 12 student from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. She started working with KN in 2018. Isabelle loves reporting, hopes to inspire others as a positive role model and believes that giving kids a voice is more important than ever.

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