Instagram’s ban of face-altering filters may improve its users’ self-image

AR filters that virtually reconstruct faces are increasingly popular, yet they can negatively affect users’ self-esteem. Instagram is the first of many apps (pictured above) that have banned all filters imitating cosmetic-surgery (TeraVesalainen/pixabay).

We all love to play around with Instagram and Snapchat’s augmented reality filters that embellish our faces with dog ears, star-shaped freckles or sunglasses, to name a few. But when these AR filters target the physical structure of our faces, they can negatively affect how we perceive ourselves without the filter. 

In response to concerns that the app is mentally damaging for its users, Instagram banned all AR filters that mimic or portray the presence of plastic surgery. This ban is highly necessary since face-altering filters encourage users to cover up their insecurities rather than work on learning to love their authentic physical appearances. 

Since the release of Facetune—an app notorious for editing and photoshopping selfies—in 2013, people have virtually transformed their faces into “ideal” versions of themselves. AR filters made this process much faster and easier for people with all levels of technological skills to use. 

Certain filters alter the shape of the face, its bone structure and even specific parts of the face, such as the mouth and nose, giving the impression of cosmetic surgery. Additionally, some Instagram users created custom AR filters—Plastica and FixMe—which portrayed the markings a cosmetic surgeon would make on their patient’s face before conducting surgery. 

Some Instagram users were upset with the prohibition of every AR filter that pertains to cosmetic surgery, regardless of their connotation. Even though the FixMe AR filter imitated bruising from cosmetic surgery, it was still among the banned AR filters.

Creator of the FixMe filter Daniel Mooney said, “FixMe was only ever supposed to be a critique of plastic surgery, showing how unglamorous the process is with the markings and bruising,” according to BBC News. Although Mooney has good intentions, his gruesome AR filter might’ve encouraged users to turn to other, more visually appealing face-altering AR filters. 

Others argue that Instagram’s ban won’t change much because there is an endless number of face-altering apps. While Instagram’s ban on such filters may not solve this problem in its entirety, it very well may inspire other apps to follow in their footsteps and ban their own face-altering technology. 

Twitter user heyfeesha tweeted, “Filters can be fun, but they can also adversely affect the way you see yourself when you look in the mirror without them,” according to Independent Co. 

Filters should be used for fun. They should not transfigure users’ facial features. The filters that remain, including filters with animal ears and star-studded faces, do not manipulate the perception of the users’ own physical traits. Rather than encouraging the avoidance of one’s self-image issues with face-altering technology, apps should work on uplifting their users as their genuine selves.

Aliyha Gill is an English and psychology double major who thinks mental health is super important!