When I open up my phone camera to take a selfie, the beauty filter is automatically set to five out of 10 and I have to turn it off manually unless I want a picture in which I look like a creepy doll. There is probably a way to change this but I haven’t discovered it yet and, to be honest, sometimes I need a bit o’ filter to look what I consider to be halfway decent. Sad but true.
Photos can’t always be believed because they are often automatically edited, whether we want them to be or not. Software companies play into our vanity, which is evident from the number of photo-editing apps available for download. Sharing heavily edited pictures became mainstream when Snapchat arrived on the scene a few years ago. Want a new profile picture with bug eyes where you are puking out a rainbow? Snapchat can provide:
There are also themed filters and a whole host of cute animals:
For the most part, Snapchat filters are fun and harmless. I’m not a teddy bear, obviously. It’s a playful way to share pictures on social media. And considering that the majority of them are so ridiculous, it’s not as if they can be used to fool anyone anyway.
So what’s the problem?
Snapchat is on the extreme end of the filter spectrum, but built-in filters on phone cameras are more subtle and work as instant retouchers. Initially, many phones had this feature but it needed to be turned on by the photographer first. Now you have to turn the filter off – a conscious choice to look ‘worse’, which is actually just your normal.
Celebrities like Lena Dunham and Kerry Washington have voiced their issues with photo-editing tools such as Photoshop because they create unrealistic beauty standards. This is great news for us mere mortals: we are moving in a more body-positive direction. ‘Love the skin you’re in’ has become a mantra, as we embrace what makes us unique. So why are phone-software developers still making us look other-worldly without first asking if we want to look flawless There is a double standard here: we are encouraged to flaunt ourselves in our most natural state, but we are still programming gadgets to decide what ‘natural beauty’ looks like. And turns out, it isn’t that natural after all, but rather halfway between what’s real and what’s artificially airbrushed.
Sure, most of us do things which alter our appearance (make-up anyone?), but automatic phone filters can play a role in setting the beauty bar high and making people feel insecure about revealing the unfiltered version of themselves online. They are obviously doing this to meet demand, as people want to look amazing at all times. But these subtle photo manipulations can reinforce our own insecurities rather than make us feel beautiful in any lighting and at any angle. And that’s not exactly progress.
This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t have fun making ourselves look like angels or aliens (*doing that now*) but rather that we really need to stop allowing technology to make these types of decisions – or cyborgs really might take over the world soon.
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