What are Instagram filters in real life

Instagram bans filters with cosmetic surgery effects. But does that really make sense?

In October, Instagram announced that face filters with cosmetic surgery effects would now be banned. The news was posted on Spark AR, Facebook's augmented reality platform. It reports that one billion people have used the face-altering filters in the last year alone. The company announces that it is adapting its "existing guidelines for the benefit of the mental health of users" and that it wishes for a "positive experience" for Instagram users. These filters, which can not only cover our faces with glitter or turn us into aliens, have led to an increasing number of users now experimenting with apps to change their bodies. These filters also include "FixMe" and "Plastica", which allow users to dramatically change their facial features, smooth their skin or even imitate bruises similar to a surgical procedure.

Instagram's decision follows growing concerns about the relationship between social media, our looks, and our mental health. Newspapers that previously dealt with a phenomenon called "Snapchat Dysmorphia" are now reporting on the increasingly popular phenomenon of the "Instagram Face". The reason: Many social media users who follow a certain group of celebrities and influencers feel the pressure to follow this new online aesthetic.

Instagram bans cosmetic surgery filters

The Instagram filters are called, for example, "Plastica" or "Bad Botox" and make their users look as if they have already visited the cosmetic surgeon several times. "FixMe" even projects the black markings that a cosmetic surgeon draws on the patient's face on the patient's problem areas before an operation.

The rise of the "Instagram Face"

The "Instagram Face" resembles the appearance of a Bratz doll, with enlarged lips and prominently shaped cheekbones. The look is largely shaped by celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Kylie Jenner, but is also based on other personalities like Bella Hadid or Ariana Grande. As "Vice" points out in a recent report on the questionable world of fillers and injectables, this look has sparked a boom in non-invasive procedures, especially among young women.

But how are the now banned Instagram filters related to the above-mentioned phenomenon? In any case, Instagram thinks about this problem that the filters would damage the well-being of its users. When asked for a comment, a Facebook spokesperson replied, "We want filters to be a positive experience for people. As we reevaluate this, we're going to: First, remove all effects from the gallery that are associated with beauty OPs could be linked, secondly, stop approving new effects like these, and thirdly, remove current effects when they are reported to us. "

At first glance, all of this makes sense. Especially in light of a 2017 report by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, which states that 55 percent of surgeons operate on patients who cite taking selfies as the reason for their intervention. Although these filters clearly show that there is a connection between our online images and a (possibly) unfulfilled real desire for change, these filters are only part of a much larger problem.

A profound problem

As a PhD student at the National University of Ireland Galway, Mary McGill works on selfies and post-feminist digital cultures. Regarding the ban on online filters, she says: "I welcome any change that will make it easier for us to find our way around our extremely visual culture. I think that's a pretty poor gesture, however. The problem extends far beyond a few filters and is also attributed to a number of practices and norms that sites like Instagram have introduced into our lives. " What kinds of norms does McGill mean by this? "With these practices, we treat the female body and face as objects that are examined and evaluated in ever more precise ways. All beauty apps are based on the assumption that our bodies must be perfected, which automatically makes them flawed."

One of these beauty apps is "Facetune", 2017 the most popular paid app in Apple's App Store. The possibility of being able to edit the face down to the smallest detail offers many users an unobtrusive alternative to the comic-like filters that can be found on platforms such as Instagram. (For example, users can straighten their noses or define their jaw line almost unnoticed.) In this way, people can easily create manipulated digital avatars of themselves - images that many people cannot do justice to in real life. The result: More and more young women are using their edited photos as a reference for their plastic surgeon in order to achieve a similar "IRL" look.

Dr. Rosie Findlay, fashion theorist and course director of the Masters Course in Fashion Cultures at the London College of Fashion, tells us: "These ways of thinking about our bodies and ourselves came before social media, but have now strengthened [...] because they make us encourage us to train our view of ourselves and to control our appearance in a very controlled way. " She also thinks this ties in with the Photoshop and plastic surgery debate that took place in the mid-2000s. The difference, however, is that back then it was not difficult to see when a photo was manipulated - but the minimal interventions via "Facetune" are hardly noticeable today. "If you can modify or tweak yourself - which is the very mild phrase when we talk about this type of surgery - and it is done very skillfully, it's like it still is herself are only slightly improved. I believe this aesthetic is aimed at exactly that. If you still look much like you did before the operation, then [the procedure] was successful. "She also adds that this also quickly affects our class structure and the contrast between" subtle "and" too much "creates new beauty hierarchies can.

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The future of beauty in the digital age

There's no denying that the internet has changed our understanding of beauty. It's a complicated and often contradicting development: On the one hand, there is now more recognition for different bodies and looks, as well as the chance for all of us to present ourselves as we want to be seen. The internet also allows us to play with conventions. It's not difficult to find celebrities who enjoy our self-imposed standards. (Best example: the singer King Princess, who ironically uses cosmetic surgery-inspired filters on her account.) The Internet also allows us to mix fact and fiction. Make-up artist Alexis Stone recently had a joke and used prostheses and other special effects over the course of several months to convince his Instagram followers that his cosmetic surgery had gone wrong.

On the other hand, these ideals with which we are confronted every day force a very homogeneous idea of ​​beauty. A recent example is the claim by a cosmetic surgeon that Bella Hadid is the most beautiful woman in the world. Her statement was based on the golden ratio, a well-known Eurocentric way of representing "physical perfection". These ideals especially praise the appearance of women whose "IRL" looks - whether achieved through diets, personal training, make-up artists, surgical interventions or the like - are driven to perfection with flawless image processing. This puts renewed pressure on us to optimize ourselves - or continue to feel flawed - as we become the stars of our own Instagram story.

Banning one or the other filter will surely help us out with social media and our looks, or at least spark a debate about it. But for something to really change, we need to initiate a much broader and more complicated discussion of how beauty is constructed, maintained, and constantly emphasized in the online world.

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