If I nailed a perfect cat eye, I couldn’t resist photographing it for Instagram. The sun couldn’t shine without me flipping on my front cam to test out the lighting, and I wouldn’t dare take a bite of my Sunday brunch before documenting it first. To say I was an avid selfie taker was an understatement. But when I landed my first full-time job, my dedication to snapping these pictures diminished.
Waking up every morning for work with only a few minutes to get ready left no time to find my light and snap 50 photos from my best angle. Thus, my interest in Instagram and selfies began to dwindle. It was then that I decided to make a Snapchat account.
Joining Snapchat sparked my love for social media all over again. It was there I flaunted my most authentic self. I was comfortable recording my makeup-free trip to the grocery store or happy hour with my girls without the pressure for overly filtered faces or the fear of not getting any “likes.” I posted what I wanted, not caring who was watching or what I looked like. The platform felt refreshingly real.
Not too long ago, Snapchat released a variety of facial-distorting filters that further solidified my love for the app. I would spend minutes hysterically cracking up at the sight of my face transformed into a frightening bunny – and don’t even get me started on the sight of rainbow vomit when I opened my mouth. However, some filters were a little more troubling.
I have nothing against the use of Snapchat faces, but certain filters are more like instant retouchers instead of playful add-ons, becoming similar to the Facetune and Photoshop filters I personally despise. Makeup artists use apps like these to enhance their features in ways a standard camera probably wouldn’t capture. However, they have gone from artistry-emphasizing tools to essentials for many everyday women, who blur out their faces until they no longer look real.
One filter in particular, which I refer to as the “catfish filter,” instantly alters your entire face to create a more flawless version of you. At the press of a button, my rounded cheeks and nose are suddenly contoured and chiseled. Every pimple and imperfection vanishes – and I am no longer me. Instead, I’m transformed into a thinner, more refined version of myself . . . the more “socially desirable” me.
A variety of filters also exaggerate select facial features. Certain Snapchat enhancements can widen your nose, enlarge your lips, and even fabricate a double chin. As I hold my phone to my face, I wonder what someone who is actually self-conscious of his or her nose, lips, and weight feel seeing these features being altered.
Filters can be fun. But like any perfect photo on Instagram or on Snapchat, they are not reality. Celebrities and social media personalities like Lena Dunham and Kerry Washington have recently spoken out against retouching and photoshopping, and more women are making the choice to take a natural approach to beauty. But it seems like the more society vocalizes loving the skin you are in, the farther away from it we become. When I sign onto my social media profile, it’s impossible to escape the overly contoured, “Botox Instagram faces” we are trying to move away from.
I always find myself thinking about the people using the catfish filter who would prefer to look like their retouched self. Or those who would think twice before showing off their filter-free face because it just doesn’t look as good as it would enhanced. We all have insecurities, and many of us would change them if we could. But because we are constantly fed dosages of unrealistic perfection, our insecurities consume us. Instead of celebrating the traits that make us unique, we are constantly given new ways to hide them . . . and now one of those ways is through filters.
It is important to remember that while certain enhancements might give you a boost of confidence in a three-second story, you don’t need them to be beautiful. Makeup and contouring are forms of artistry that can enhance what you naturally have and serve as a form of self-expression. Instagram, Snapchat, and their filters are another way to tell your story. But don’t use them as a crutch that prevents you from being proud of what you see when the filters go off. Instead, celebrate who you are – made up or stripped down. You might be surprised at the way the “real” you will be received.