Slim waist, fair skin, big eyes, and high cheekbones made it to the list of the “perfect” woman. Ever since we were young girls, society (read: relatives, neighbourhood aunties, and even our own parents) subjected us to ruthless and inappropriate remarks on our appearance. Those who couldn’t tick off these parameters were isolated or termed ‘unattractive’, thereby affecting their mental wellbeing.
Unfortunately, social media platforms have been feeding on the same insecurities, and as hard as it is for most of us to admit, our lives today certainly revolve around the number of likes and comments we garner on our posts.
We can’t deny the many benefits of social media, but hey, sit back and think of how much time you’ve last spent before uploading that picture? No, it doesn’t take too long to put out a post, but it surely takes a sizable amount of time to find the perfect filter.
The dark side of social media
Tons of Instagram and Snapchat filters available today help you fade your blemishes, rendering your skin smooth and supple just like your favourite actors and models. And then you could also pick options that promise you bigger eyes, defined cheekbones, chiselled jawlines and a pointed nose — all within a matter of minutes, and that’s exactly how we are all slipping into a sinister territory.
This face that you are displaying to the world is not real in any way - it has been refashioned to change your appearance, in accordance with the beauty ideals that are simply unattainable. In the end, it is most likely that you start feeling worse about your own body and battle identity issues in the race to attain “perfection”.
The game doesn’t end here. Striving to fit the accepted norms of beauty, people are now leaning on cosmetic enhancements to become an improved version of themselves. .
“Women (and even men) today have become increasingly conscious about the way they look, so much so that they are ready to go under the knife, only to achieve a certain appearance. But even then, these filters are so unrealistic that cosmetic procedures can’t give you the same effect. It is important to be accepting of what you have, instead of chasing these ideals,” shares Alap Bhardwaj, a cosmetic surgeon.
Filters and mental health
A few Instagram and Snapchat filters come with fun stickers (that’s how it all began), and if used occasionally, cause no harm. But with plastic-surgery-like filters offered on these apps, chances are likely that a huge number of people fall prey to mental health issues like facial dysmorphia, anxiety and even depression.
Facial dysmorphia is a mental health condition in which a person lays emphasis on the most minor physical flaws, be it skin imperfections, the way they smile, as well as their weight. The obsession is so real that without even realising, they click pictures of themselves, and in the next moment, start to “fix” the so-called imperfections using various beauty apps. Every time these people look into the mirror, they hate what they see, which affects their self-worth even more.
“Today, it's rare seeing images of anything unfiltered. When all you see are filters, you truly start believing that perfection is the standard we should all be aspiring towards. Teenage girls start to use these filtered images as a measure and constantly feel inadequate. Instagram filters tell us that we can be perfect if we just morph different parts of us, leading us to believe that who we are and how we look isn't enough,” shares Anushka Kelkar, a Mumbai-based photographer who runs the Instagram page Browngirlgazin.
A tribe of responsible influencers
Started in 2018, Browngirlgazin regularly posts honest portraits of women who are battling negative body images. Kelkar had started the page because she felt uncomfortable with her body despite having a slim body structure.
“From early on, I felt like my body was being policed, and was scared to treat it as something that was growing and changing. Even if I gained some weight, I would overthink. I took it as a personal flaw, just like other women. That’s when I realised this stems from social conditioning,” she shares.
Popular influencers on Instagram like Kusha Kapila and Schezerade Shroff have been candid about their own struggles with such beauty filters.
In one of her recent posts, Shroff wrote, “A few years ago when filters were launched they were all funny and just for gags. But then slowly the beauty filters started creeping in on us and never left! Honestly I agree with how convenient they are and how you don’t need to wear makeup when you can just use a filter! But what bothers me is how they just blur everything to give you this unrealistic perfect skin, make your eyes bigger, nose smaller and lips fuller! And over time we start thinking that the perfect version of us is better than the real one.”
Old wine in a new bottle
The concept of attaining unrealistic beauty ideals goes back to when glossy fashion magazines and movies propagated the idea of a ‘perfect’ woman. Most women harboured dreams of becoming a Kareena or a Katrina in their desperate drive for perfection.
“I was in school when ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham’ was released. All my friends wanted to be like Kareena Kapoor’s character Poo because she looked so hot! We had become so obsessed that some of my friends started skipping meals only to be able to wear those crop tops. The repercussions were so negative. At that point, it was movies, and today it’s social media. Sometimes, you don’t even realise but it affects you both mentally and physically,” shares Ankita Sinha, a 29-year-old legal professional from New Delhi.
Most of us do not realise that it is airbrushing – an advanced technique used in photography – that gives images of models and celebrities that aspirational sheen. With the pressure to look perfect all the time, it is almost a professional necessity for celebrities to adhere to these standards too.
However, certain celebs who have been vocal about body positivity do not shy away from revealing their real self. Actor Sonam Kapoor’s article on Buzzfeed a few years ago was a revelation – one that was widely lauded for its honesty and courage.
Self-acceptance is the key
There’s no harm wanting to look a certain way, but the expectations must be realistic. Leaning on these beauty filters is only hurting your self-image, thereby disconnecting you from your authentic self. Flaws and imperfections are a part of our being, and the only way to really deal with this is to accept yourself the way you are. Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder, right? No, it is you who is in charge of your self-worth. Let the world (or social media) take that power away from you!
“There’s so much good in each person, and if we continue to compare ourselves with others, or constantly use these filters to get more likes and comments, it’s going to leave a permanent mark. So, stop trying to be a part of this race, and slowly and steadily, accept yourself the way you are,” says Bhavna Kutty, a mental health professional.
Of course, looking like a Kylie Jenner or Kim Kardashian (using face filters) might seem like an attractive proposition, but how long is it going to last? There’s nothing like celebrating your inherent beauty and expressing your individuality. It’s liberating and beautiful in the true sense of the word.
How about joining the #nofilter bandwagon?
(Edited by Amrita Ghosh)