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Young Women Are Obsessed with Digital Beautifiers

Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, and other social media sites have recently begun offering high-tech filters. With a few simple clicks these filters will beautify the appearance of teenage girls and young women in their social media profiles. The filters have exploded in popularity as millions of users now get “model-esque looks by sharpening, shrinking, enhancing, and recoloring their faces and bodies.” Researchers have named it “augmented reality” (AR) and are concerned that these girls “are subjects in an experiment that will show how the technology changes the way we form our identities, represent ourselves, and relate to others. And it’s all happening without much oversight.”

Both Facebook and Instagram claim that over 600 million people have used the beautifiers. Facebook reports that about 10,000 employees are working on AR and virtual reality products. More than 400,000 third-party creators have produced a total of over 1.2 million effects on Facebook alone.

Girls say an “Instagram Face” is a “small nose, big eyes, clear skin, and big lips.” Researchers are concerned that many young girls express an interest in real-life plastic surgery to obtain a look similar to their online image. Krista Crotty, a specialist on eating disorders and mental health, sees that a sense of anxiety develops when girls live with the incongruity of their online and in-person selves.

Preteens are also being affected. Claire Pescott, a researcher on preteens and social media, reports that young girls say things like “I put this filter on because I have flawless skin. It takes away my scars and spots.” She is concerned that for young people trying to figure out who they are, it can be harmful: “I don’t think it’s just filtering your actual image. It’s filtering your whole life.”

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