Gone are the days of girls looking in the mirror and comparing themselves to others to determine self-worth.
Now, comparisons are made on social media with the use of filters. Paige Morgan, a 23-year-old TikTok influencer with 633,000 followers, knows this feeling all too well.
“Unfortunately, social media has brought me to my lowest,” Morgan said. “Scrolling through my feed to see other girls viewed as ‘perfect’ to the world caused me to lower my standards and self-confidence, not to mention the hundreds of hate comments and direct messages I get on the daily.”
This perceived view of “perfect” is a part of the social media dilemma that causes some people to turn to beauty filters on apps like TikTok, Snapchat, or Instagram.
“Both Instagram and Snapchat — platforms that hit record high levels of engagement during the pandemic — have beauty and augmented-reality facial filters,” Anna Haines wrote for Forbes Magazine. “Settings like the ‘enhance’ feature on TikTok and ‘touch up my appearance’ on Zoom deliver flawless skin for videos.”
Researchers from Instagram — which is owned by Facebook — found that Instagram can exasperate negative body images among teenage girls.
“Thirty-two percent of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse,” the researchers said in a March 2020 slide presentation posted to Facebook’s internal message board, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. “Comparisons on Instagram can change how young women view and describe themselves.”
An overwhelming amount of Facebook’s own evidence not only exhibits how these platforms damage teen girls’ self-esteem, but it also points to more serious mental illness.
“For some people it might be tempting to dismiss this as teen girls being sad, but we’re looking at clinical-level depression that requires treatment,” psychologist and internet researcher Jean Twenge told The Wall Street Journal. “We’re talking about self-harm that lands people in the ER.”
Last year, lawmakers questioned the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, about the effects Facebook and Instagram have on young girls.
“It has hidden its own research on addiction and the toxic effects of its products,” Connecticut Sen. Richard Blumenthal said. “It has attempted to deceive the public and us in Congress about what it knows, and it has weaponized childhood vulnerabilities against children themselves. It’s chosen growth over children’s mental health and well-being, greed over preventing the suffering of children.”
After this information came out, Facebook released two slides that said many teens reported a positive experience on Instagram, which lawmakers pointed out was only a small part of the research.
“Facebook is just like Big Tobacco, pushing a product that they know is harmful to the health of young people, pushing it to them early,” Massachusetts Sen. Edward Markey said in response to the slides.
AddiLyne Schooley, a film production major at Salt Lake Community College, said she used filters whenever she took a selfie in middle and high school.
“I felt like it was the only way I could like a picture of myself; if my ‘flaws’ and ‘imperfections’ were blurred out,” Schooley said.
Sunny Chanthavong, a communications major, had a similar experience.
“Before I noticed the signs of these edits, I was always comparing myself to these women which was damaging to my self-esteem and how I perceived my own body,” she said.
Morgan reminded anyone using social media that self-love should come before social media comparison.
“I know that these people commenting negative things are just some random person behind a screen that would be too afraid to say something like that to my face,” Morgan said. “I strive to make a positive environment, and show others that acne is normal. I want others to feel confident for simply being themselves.”