I'm excited about this post because it's one of my most important topics amongst today's young girls. For decades, magazines has altered the images of their most famous models. Whether it's a blemish, a scar, a waistline or smoothing out skin, the industry shaped a "norm" when it comes to packaging their content. Now that girls as young as 3rd grade have phones, tablets and computers, when we mix that with the ability to filter out what they believe are flaws you've got a perfect storm that creates a shift in our confidence and self-esteem. How do we nix the dependency and stay authentic to ourselves and others? It's a huge uphill climb for many but we've got to make a change. I can't change the social media rules but I can change MY behavior and inspire other girls to keep the movement going.
Many girls begin using filters to hide their biggest insecurity because they feel everyone might zoom in on their post and share it with each other to make fun. This can be especially true for girls who feel they don't fit in or look like other girls around them. A desire to use social media filters isn't unique. Just scroll through your Instagram feed or Snapchat stories and you're bound to see photos of girls of all ages and even adults with heart eyes, anime cartoon depictions, Disney-inspired graphics, and more. Using filters can be fun and totally harmless. But not all filters are created equally. Some are smoothing out the skin, enhancing features or making them smaller, and even changing skin colors. These filters geared toward beauty modification can be damaging to a girl's self-worth and mental health, while also creating unrealistic expectations.
With any form of social media, we have the ability to create the persona or public face we want others to see. Reality becomes even more distorted when posts use filters and other feature-enhancing apps to change and enhance the appearance of the image. Here's the catch... Did you know?????? A 2021 ParentsTogether survey of more than 200 U.S. teens ages 13 to 21 found 87 percent use a filter on social media, and nearly 1 in 5 use a beauty filter on every single one of their posts. The most common reasons for using the beauty filters were to "look more beautiful" and "hide a characteristic they don't like." What's more: 61 percent of those teens said beauty filters make them feel worse about their real-life appearance. WHAT???? OK, now we're feeling worse after we use filters to alter our bodies! Well, that makes perfect sense so WHY do we continue down this rabbit hole?
What's also dangerous is how subtle these filtered images sometimes are. A 2017 study in the journal Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications found that people only recognized manipulated images up to 65 percent of the time. And yet these highly filtered images online can affect a person's self-esteem, promote unhealthy behaviors like disordered eating or over-exercising, and impact how girls view their identity. "When filters change the shape of facial features like the eyes, nose, and lips, or smooth and lighten the skin color, the message being sent is that we are not enough the way we are. BUT WE ARE!!!!! WE ARE ENOUGH!!!
The first step is awareness. I think really cognitively and consciously challenging and reminding ourselves that these images are NOT real and authentic is a good first step. It's also important to have some awareness of when social media may be leading to depression, anxiety, or isolation. The second step is recognizing our worth. As a whole this can be difficult when we're bombarded with beauty messages, filtered photos, influencers who constantly alter their image. I believe now is a great time for us girls to learn to love ourselves and become authentic with everyone we encounter. For me, getting together face-to-face with friends, connecting with mentors, immersing myself in a hobby, getting outside, exercise and of course taking the time to just decompress and be one with myself (even for 15 minutes) is super important. Scrolling social media constantly throughout the day takes focus from living YOUR life, creating your own memories and joy. Push back on the "filterization" & take your authenticity to a new level online & in person! P.S. Pass it on to all the girls in your life. Movements begin with 1 person...