Tik Tok filters fuel the fire of self-image issues

Eurocentric beauty standards alienate BIPOC users

Tik Tok filters are detrimental to society's view of beauty.
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Filters used to alter physical appearances have been around on social media for years.

The famous Snapchat dog filter and the multi-coloured flower crowns of 2016 paved the way for a plethora of beauty filters that transform the way someone looks, while still being disguised as seemingly unedited.

It’s no surprise these filters are well-known to cause low self-esteem and body image issues. When people consume social media filters, they’re implicitly told that their own face and body—taken without the filter—aren’t beautiful or desirable.

TikTok’s growing popularity has brought even more controversy to the table regarding social media filters. With its fast-paced content, problematic filters, and addictive algorithm, viewing and creating filtered videos can have a detrimental effect on viewers.

The app is notoriously addictive. Thanks to the short length of its content, users’ attention are held for longer periods of time, eliciting the familiar ‘addictive’ feeling through the brain’s release of dopamine. Coupled with this, the app’s personalised and specific algorithm makes it almost impossible to not find an enjoyable niche of content.

These two features have made TikTok an even more unsafe platform for the security and stability of users’ self-esteem and body confidence. The ease with which users can see content means they can be exposed to hundreds of edited videos in a short period of time.

It’s this extreme and constant exposure which exacerbates the existing issues with beauty filters.

Furthermore, the specific algorithm works by showing users more of what they watch. So, if an individual watches a lot of videos with beauty filters, they’re shown more and more of the same content. This creates a dangerous echo chamber of content.

On some TikTok videos, users can see at the bottom of the screen when a video has been uploaded with a filter. However, this method isn’t fool-proof; users can bypass it with various methods to create a video that’s seemingly unedited and dangerously inconspicuous.

Such videos negatively impact users’ self-esteem by forced them to compare themselves to a fake and altered video of someone else. Crucially, these beauty filters also promote an idealised model of beauty, drawing upon current ‘trending’ body types and Eurocentric features to create problematic representations of what’s attractive.

TikTok filters often change noses to be smaller and lips to be larger; they lighten eyes and skin and soften dark circles and acne. By creating and endorsing filters which uphold Eurocentric beauty standards, TikTok creates a narrow, damaging environment in which beauty is strictly confined to Eurocentric features.

A recent trending filter, the Glow Look filter, possessed many of these Eurocentric qualities and elicited controversy through its complete alienation of BIPOC individuals. This is only one of the troubling examples of filters which perpetuate unrealistic and exclusive representations of beauty.

As TikTok remains one of the most popular apps for our generation, we must acknowledge its shortcomings—namely, how it exacerbates the already existent problems with using beauty filters on social media.

While TikTok has drawn influence from many of its predecessors, the addictive nature of its algorithm and short content are sure-fire ways for users to become even more susceptible to lower self-esteem and body confidence.

With the app’s ever-growing and expanding influence, it begs the question whether TikTok will ever shun the use of filters that can leave its users feeling alienated and insecure.

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