Hackernoon logoThe Sinister Side of Instagram Filters by@peter-jobes

The Sinister Side of Instagram Filters

Peter Jobes Hacker Noon profile picture

@peter-jobesPeter Jobes

Peter Jobes is a tech & blockchain writer. Featured in VentureBeat.

Over time, social media platforms have grown and transformed into abilities and features. They first started as platforms used for tagging and connecting with long lost family members and friends. But now, they have transformed and are used for uploading and sending selfies with filters thanks to apps like Snapchat. 

Filters have created a new fun way to interact with these platforms and their users by posting pictures with cartoon dog ears or floral halos. However, as using filters becomes increasingly popular, the reasons behind using them have changed.


(Chart showing the most popular social media platforms. Source: Statista)

Filters have evolved as time has gone on, they now concentrate on creating a more realistic, cosmetic appeal to users' faces, rather than being cute and funny. Instagram filters come in a variety of selections that enhance and alter facial structures. They allow users to take pictures with different coloured eyes, features that represent people from a particular culture, and the ability to change skin tone. 

Although these types of filters may seem harmless, the damaging effects they are having on society, young adults and people from cultural backgrounds that some filters are aimed at are having a devastating impact on users and their mental health

The effect of filters on young adults 

Many young smartphone users find it hard to differentiate between the online and offline world, it's just a part of life for them. This has created a mindset that makes everything they see online very real until they grow up enough to understand it's not what it seems. 

A good example of this has been the change in how influencers now post on social media. In the past, when influencers were sponsored by companies to promote their brands they did not have to declare it, this created a false reality where influencers made their followers believe they had purchased an item, creating a fake lifestyle


(Internet users who believe social media had an impact on different aspects of daily life. Source: Statista)

Face altering filters can also have a damaging effect on self-esteem, making youngsters feel insecure about their natural features, which can lead to less body confidence and increased anxiety.

The cultural effect of filters

There have been some filters on Instagram, which can make users look like people from different cultures by enhancing their face with features most common to these cultures. 

British-born vlogger Shu Lin is of Chinese heritage and came across a filter that mimics Asian features. She found this very offensive as from a young age, she was made fun of for her features and felt the filters were pushing along the same lines.

Some filters can change the user's skin tones. Although this may not seem damaging, there is much offence in these filters for those who naturally have darker shaded skin and are isolated due to it in some communities.

They cannot change their skin tone as, and when they wish, which is what filters can do for some and on some levels, people can sometimes be racially abused when considering their skin tone, and so, it can be offensive as some are using the filter as a fashion accessory. 

The effects of filters on mental health 


(The impact of social media on young people. Source: Statista)

Body positivity has considerably increased over the years shaming marketing campaigns that use the slogan 'beach body'. We are moving into a world where women are being encouraged to embrace their natural beauty. However, thanks to social media, having a slim figure has grown in popularity, causing more and more users to consider cosmetic surgery for the perfect Instagram holiday snap. 

Mentally, it's hard for users to consider that what they see on social media is a distorted reality. This leads to lower self-esteem and increased mental health issues. Many of the selfie filters on social media apps such as Instagram get rid of natural blemishes and pores on faces, making a face appear smooth and clear. 

The filters can also enhance features such as making lips bigger, noses straighter, and eyes wider. These small adjustments can impact the mental health of users, making them feel inadequate to their peers. 

All in all, filters did start as a bit of fun, but the sinister turn they have taken, and the effect they are having on users makes them very questionable. 

Considering technological advancements we’re set to experience in the coming years, including the worldwide adoption of 5G, it will only give more capabilities for developers to come up with new, more advanced social apps and filters that may have more adverse effects on the mental health of its users. 

The increased and heavy use of filters a very vivid picture for the future and what it will be like if nothing is done now to change how they are used.


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