Instagram Nixes Plastic-Surgery-Like Filters & We Love The Reason Why

mbg Beauty and Lifestyle Senior Editor By Alexandra Engler
mbg Beauty and Lifestyle Senior Editor
Alexandra Engler is the Beauty and Lifestyle Senior Editor. She received her journalism degree from Marquette University, graduating first in the department.
Instagram Nixes Plastic Surgery-Like Filters & We Love The Reason Why

Image by Jovo Jovanovic / Stocksy

Instagram's filters are about to get a little, um, make-under. They'll now start banning any filter that has a plastic-surgery-like effect. You know, the ones that blow up your lips like you've gotten a syringe full of filler or whittle down your nose. This news comes from the company Spark AR Creators, which produces the filters for the social media platform. In their announcement on Facebook, they said they wanted their product "to be a positive experience and [we] are re-evaluating our existing policies as they relate to well-being." And to do this, they'd be "removing all effects associated with plastic surgery from the Instagram Gallery." They also noted that they didn't have an exact timeline for the rollout but to expect to see changes in the coming weeks.

This likely won't affect most of the filters, even though they all more or less have some sort of enhancing effect. (Even the silly ones usually look like they have some sort of skin-smoothing haze.) The company is really just re-evaluating options where your face is transformed in a way that you couldn't achieve with some under-eye concealer and a few coats of mascara.

This change comes after years of amassed research that suggests these social media platforms (and their filters) are potentially damaging to our mental health. This 2017 survey showed that Instagram was ranked the worst for users' well-being, noting that it contributed to users feeling self-conscious about body image, as well as negatively affecting other mental health indicators like sleep hygiene. (One survey responder said this: "Instagram easily makes girls and women feel as if their bodies aren't good enough as people add filters and edit their pictures in order for them to look 'perfect.'") This 2017 study showed there was a connection between young adults' social media usage and reported rates of anxiety and depression. Researchers have even documented a spike in plastic surgery interest, which they say is related to this—and dubbed a new concept called "Social Media Dysmorphia."

Given all of this, I thought this change seemed like a step in the right direction. For the past few years, we've collectively moved away from overly Photoshopping ads and media images, so why then would we promote filters that essentially do the same thing? But I wanted to get an expert's opinion, so I reached out to mbg Collective member and board-certified holistic psychiatrist Ellen Vora, M.D., for comment.

"While I'm all for freedom and choice in general, I am in favor of this change. The fact that some people get attached to presenting themselves in enhanced ways, only to be disappointed by their real image, is quite disheartening," she says. "I would much prefer to live in a society that had no mirrors than to live in one in which we felt it was so important to look a certain way that we apply digital plastic surgery! In general, I'm all for re-centering our expectations of what others look like and what we should look like back to a more realistic baseline."

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