Melia Kenny/TMD.

It all started as an innocent way of sending funny pictures of yourself to your friends on Snapchat and “harmlessly” touching up small blemishes on our faces to appear more flattering in our selfies. Now, social media has transformed into an inescapable reality where significantly altering your appearance to seem more “polished” and “socially acceptable” is the norm. The existence of Snapchat and Instagram filters, Photoshop and Facetune has become normalized, drastically changing the natural state of our bodies in order to be perceived as desirable. 

I’ve been using social media since I was 12 years old. I’ve witnessed the change from casual Snapchat conversations and unedited Instagram pictures to Photoshopped faces and unrealistic edits. Facetune, Photoshop and Snapchat filters have absolutely demolished society’s perception of normality to the point where there is a stark difference between our natural appearance and the body that is posted on our feeds. Filters and apps smooth out every single possible blemish on one’s face, dramatically enlarge lips, change eye colors and more — all in order to make people appear perfect. They put us into a body completely different from the one we really live in. What used to be a fun way of sharing life with friends has now turned into a modality centered on overanalyzing every miniscule part of a picture to make sure our posts portray us as the best and most perfect versions of ourselves. 

It’s extremely difficult for me to get into the mindset of accepting my face and body as beautiful the way they are when I’m constantly surrounded by other people who appear to be perfect. It is so tempting to fix my insecurities when one can easily tap a few buttons and become “perfect.” I desperately try not to use them because I have noticed how much they destroy my self-esteem, but because I am constantly surrounded by “perfection” on my Instagram feed, it’s hard to beat the temptation of downloading Photoshop. If these apps can turn me into my idealized image of myself, why wouldn’t I want to use them? 

The widespread use of filters and Photoshop is largely attributed to the rise in the commodification of social media. As Social Media Influencing has become a job, one’s personal brand is important to uphold. To make your life seem desirable and to keep the brand deals rolling, you have to look perfect and post aesthetic content. Simply put, the more people that are envious of your lifestyle, the more brands will want to work with you and the more money you will make. I completely understand that this is a way that many people make a living, but I honestly don’t know how much more of being “influenced” I can handle — especially if it means I am constantly surrounded by unrealistic expectations of what I should look like and how I should live. 

In addition to the alternate realities these filters create, they are also extremely problematic for non-Eurocentric features and non-white skin tones. Filters are way too small for my Afrocentric lips. They place a white cast over my Black face, and turn my dark brown eyes light brown, blue or green. They even work to contour my nose to make it look visibly smaller. Filters create an unrealistic view of what our society looks like, not only by polishing people’s faces to perceived perfection, but also by erasing non-white characteristics in an attempt to create a “pretty” or “perfect” person. Filters continue to reinforce European standards of beauty and they don’t seem to be stopping anytime soon. 

I understand why people use filters and Photoshop. They’re great for hiding sleepy eyes, unexpected pimples and other unfavorable qualities of our pictures. I also understand how addicting editing your pictures can be. It is so easy to turn your body into your idealized self, and the praise you receive when you present yourself in this way is a serotonin booster. However, I miss the casual use of social media that we used to have. The constant state of perfection that society pressures us to adhere to is suffocating. It used to be so liberating to post whatever I wanted on social media; now I have to overanalyze every aspect of any photo I want to post.

This problem seems to grow even worse every day. Apps are becoming so accurate in how they mold filters to our faces that it is getting harder and harder to tell if a filter or Photoshop is applied. People have expressed the desire for “Old Instagram,” when it was a less judgemental and more casual space to share our lives with others. A recent attempt to restore the casual nature of Instagram has emerged through “photo dumps,” or the act of posting casual and unrelated pictures of one’s life, along with a few selfies in a single Instagram post. However, even these types of posts are deliberately curated in a way that makes life seem perfectly imperfect. It is just another way to show your “real life,” but in a polished way. If we continue down this path of normalizing the alteration of how we appear for the attention of Instagram, our perceptions of beauty will fall deeper into this false reality we have created and we will continue to lose our sense of self. The more we change what appears on our screens, the more we will hate what we see in the mirror. 

I’m terrified of what this is doing to society’s perception of life and beauty. We don’t see real life through a pretty filter. Our bodies are not meant to look perfect. If they are creating this false sense of life, are filters and Photoshop even beneficial? Does editing ourselves really give us the satisfaction we want it to? 

MiC Columnist Maria Patton can be reached at