All about that Filter!

Dr Usha Nandini M,

MBBS, MD(Psychiatry), DNB(Psychiatry)

Filter? Is this article about drinking filter coffee? Or about applying filter coffee as a face mask for a better skin glow?

If you are one of the few who thought this, then you are lucky. Filter coffee may be addictive but filters on social media are Mount Everest’s level of addiction comparatively.

Yes, we are going to talk about ‘those Filters’.

I know, I know, what is the harm in using filters? It’s just making our photos more presentable, letting us be cute, and getting us more likes. What’s wrong with that? Why are people always criticising anything and everything we do on social media?!

We are not here to lecture about the harms of Social Media (because that’s a huge list!). We are here to tell you about the harms of using filters on photo apps and social media apps (What’s the big difference, duh!).

Let’s imagine a story,

Mr Billy keeps looking at the mirror and is not happy with what he sees. He tries to change his hair but doesn’t like it. He tries to change his make-up, not liking it either. He tries to change his clothes, not different from his likes. He is trying to accept his look in the mirror, he thinks maybe I am beautiful this way itself. He goes to the playground and meets Mr. Jimmy. Jimmy is very playful with a majestic appearance. Everybody likes him and talks to him. This makes Billy jealous and hates himself more. He thinks that if he changes his appearance to match Jimmy, he will also be liked. (He doesn’t realise that Jimmy’s playful personality made him likeable).

He goes to the gym, goes on a diet and tries everything to get a majestic appearance like Jimmy’s. Despite the drastic changes in his body, he was still unsatisfied. One day while he was walking around, he found a special mirror. The special mirror made him look the way he wanted. Billy was so happy. He was jumping out in joy. He kept staring at that special mirror all day. After a few days, he realised that the special mirror was the only place he looked beautiful. He wanted to look that way all the time! He looked for cosmetics, make-up and whatnot! To make him look the way he looked in that special mirror. But nothing worked out. Finally, he reached out to a Plastic Surgeon and asked him to make him look like how he looked in the special mirror. The plastic surgeon refused at first, but on further insistence, he agreed and did the procedure. Billy was so happy with his look and was walking with a spring in his step. He again met Jimmy and Jimmy appreciated his look. Later Jimmy went off to play with his other friends who liked him very much. This made Billy unhappy again and again went to the Plastic Surgeon. The plastic surgeon refused to see Billy because he needed to get a Psychiatrist’s Opinion and not another surgery. Billy was a cat and Jimmy was a dog. The psychiatrist used multiple therapy sessions to make Billy understand that.

The End.

The struggles and difficulties that Billy went through in this story are the stories of every Tom, Dick and Harry using Social Media Apps. Initially, they compare themselves with other doctored photographs of celebrities and then eventually they start comparing their real self and the filtered photos. They seek for plastic surgeons to recreate that filtered look. Plastic Surgeons have raised this as a concern called ‘Snapchat Dysmorphia’ and have refused surgeries to such patients. They are instead referred to a therapist or a psychiatrist.

Every human being is born with an innate desire to be liked, and to belong to a community. That is how civilisations were built. The ability to belong to a community has made them safe from predators, to share the resources and improve the quality of life. This innate desire is what is exploited by social media apps. Man is a social animal and social media apps allow socialisation without even meeting in person. Socialisation without meeting in person, allows the person to modify his self-image in front of others. While faking the profile, achievements, success stories etc., have their psychological impacts, using filters to change their external appearance has a significant impact on one’s self-esteem. Beware of this effect and stay away from filters as much as possible.

One cannot completely cut down social media but can be advised to use it in moderation and be wary of such physical and psychological impacts.

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