The False Beauty of Filters


With the click of a button, or rather the touch of a virtual button, you can now instantly transform your appearance. Depending on the app you’re using, seasonal effects swirl around you: your face is virtually slayed by the gods, or your face is merged with a cute little critter. It’s as if you’ve suddenly transformed into a top model.

It’s okay to admit it. We’ve all used these photo apps. Even I find myself posing with the infamous dog filter or editing an Instagram post before uploading it. Apps such as SnapChat and Instagram offer these filters and edits to be festive and fun, yet it’s hard to turn a blind eye at the dark storm we have created. We can’t refuse to see the underlying self-hate and societal anxiety we are foisting upon ourselves.


In a perfect world, filters and photo effects would be just that: filters and effects.  Yet, as we all know, our world is far from perfect. These filters, in and of themselves, may be harmless, but the motives behind them? Not so much.

Many of us are hiding our true selves behind these virtual masks. In so doing, we are not only lying to ourselves, but lying to the entire world. We, as a global society, are vastly imperfect in our pursuit of perfection.

We hide behind dog ears and flawless skin filters to show one side of ourselves: the side that might not actually represent who we truly are, but who we think we ought to be. We show ourselves solely in the way we believe others would like to see us.

Some of those swirling seasonal effects…

Don’t believe me? Go ahead, turn your television on, open a magazine, look at any billboard across the country. Not one scar in sight, no blemishes, no cracks. This is our collective fault, a cultural problem borne from our society’s need for perfection, or at least for a perfect appearance. America the Great? More like America the Fake.  I believe that people have to learn to love their natural beauty apart from society’s beauty standards.

While it’s great to strive for presenting yourself in a positive light, I’ll be the first to admit that first impressions truly set the stage. At the same time, I think it necessary to ask ourselves some important questions:  why do so many of us attempt to present ourselves as perfect? Is it because we, as a society, both consciously and subconsciously beat the message of being perfect into our own brains? I believe this to be the case.

These invisible societal standards create absence of thoughtful and meaningful connections and relationships in our culture of pretend perfection. Each of us seems to seek perfection, not only from within, but we also project this expectation for perfection to those around us.

Filters and effects aside, this is not a problem created by the inventors of fun social apps, or the apps themselves, but a problem caused by society. A problem that we can either fix or let destroy us. Do the research: online bullying is skyrocketing. states that more and more teens are falling prey to blackmail photos on Instagram. reports that teens who are bullied via the internet are over nine times more likely to commit suicide.

We shouldn’t be posting embarrassing pictures of our peers in order to simply capture an awkward moment. What good can really come from this? Yeah, maybe you’ll feel good for about three seconds, but after that time, hopefully you’ll realize that you’re bringing others down because you hate the flaws you see in yourself.

It may seem like it’s all in good fun, but the consequences are dire. No one should be brought down to the point of suicide over cyber-bullying on Instagram. We have to stop this cruelty. There is still time to turn this trend around. You can be the person to begin the domino effect that puts an end to cyber-bullying.

Go out of your way and leave nice comments. A simple compliment might mean the world to someone who was brave enough to upload a picture. Don’t use caught-in-the-moment photos as blackmail. You wouldn’t want it done to yourself. Lastly if you feel the urge to write something nasty, post something shameful, or just spew hate over social media, simply take a step back and take a break from being plugged in.

Log off, shut down your phone, and walk away.

The beauty of filters is they are filters alone:  temporary edits to decorate and change your online image. We must not only accept our own natural image but the natural images of others as well. Don’t preach self-love and appreciation if, in the next breath, you’re mocking some kid for his acne or some girl on twitter who has a ‘double chin’.

We aren’t in kindergarten here. We need to stop, take a step back, and leave our immaturity at the door. It is essential that we realize that true perfection exists in owning all of your imperfections. No matter how many filters you use, or likes you receive, or rude comments that you leave, true happiness is only obtained when you are honest with the real person behind the profile pic.

In the end, I think it’s fair to say that no matter how hard you try, you won’t achieve perfection. The fact of the matter is that no one will. Love your scars, embrace your neighbor’s acne, rejoice in the name of the girl who isn’t model thin. Life is too short to hate yourself, and life is too short to spread that same message to others. We have to stop making ourselves and others strive for an unattainable image of perfection.

Let’s work together to love ourselves and one another.

With that said, enjoy your filters, but don’t let them be the only way you present yourself to the world.

Photo Credits: Picture one (courtesy of the author), Picture 2, Picture 3