Snapchat filters and selfie dysmorphia

How social media apps that include filters influence us to desire a face different from our own  

TW: Body Dysmorphia

I wake up in the morning and my skin is completely clear. My eyes are swimming pool blue, my cheekbones are higher than Montreal on legalization day and my lashes are longer than Canadian winters. As I smile, glitter sparkles around my head. I close Snapchat and head over to brush my teeth. Staring back at me in the mirror is my face. The face that’s been with me through thick and thin, tears and laughter, and all my meaningful moments. My window to the world. And yet, I’m disappointed.

As social media apps like Snapchat and Instagram infiltrate our daily lives, we are continuously normalizing a computer-generated and artificial version of ourselves, curated specifically to fit westernized beauty norms. Our chance to finally look like Kylie Jenner, Marilyn Monroe or whoever it may be that we aesthetically idolize, is closer now than ever.

Everytime these social media platforms decide to alter our face by creating a filter, I believe they are conveying a message that says our face is wrong. Not only are they getting rid of our pimples, they are taking away our freckles, or our birthmark that our mum loves. We are no longer that badass soccer player with the scar above her eyebrow from the championship match, nor do we look anything like that black and white photo of our grandmother as a teen. These filters change the shape of our eyes, nose, lips, and even facial structure––some even lighten skin. With this, we become a representation of a eurocentric, unrealistic beauty standard, and as soon as our phone dies, so does that version of us. This technology is new, unregulated, and it is pervasive.

With the phenomenon of live filters comes a new term: “snapchat dysmorphia.” This term was coined by Dr. Tijon Esho, a cosmetic doctor from England, according to The Guardian. It stems from Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). According to Cambridge University Press, BDD is a “preoccupation with an ‘imagined’ defect in appearance which causes significant distress or impairment in functioning.” Selfie dysmorphia addresses a similar issue, where a person wishes to look like their filtered, carefully angled selfies, rather than their natural appearance.

Our current society has not met the urgency of this rapidly developing situation with adequate concern. The Journal of the American Medical Association states that the motivation to get plastic surgery driven by the desire to look better in selfies has increased by 42 per cent in the last year alone. The American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery reports that there was a 72 per cent increase of patients under the age of 30.

According to CNN, the CEO of Snap Inc., Evan Spiegel, made $638 million last year. Large companies like this are intentionally seeping into our realm and disrupting our sense of self. This technology is addictive because of the way it makes us feel inadequate when we are without it. This is a dangerous cycle. In addition to benefiting social media moguls, it strengthens a market of beauty products, diets, supplements, fashion, and fitness trends consumed by humans spending more money to make themselves feel adequate.

According to HuffPost, the average American woman spends $240 a month on beautification for their face alone. The National Report on Self Esteem reports that 98 per cent of American girls feel pressure from external sources about the way they look. Men are affected by these issues, but women spend far more time and money caught in this cycle of shame and consumption.

Manoush Zomordi, a journalist from New Jersey who works to hold social media accountable for its power, says education is the answer. Understanding the harmful patterns of exploitation that lurk beneath the surface of our technology gives people the agency to make mindful and intentional choices about their use. Snapchat makes money every time we relaunch the app. Every filter we use goes directly into the company’s pockets. The more we can’t show our face without a filter, the richer they become. This breakdown may reframe apps like Snapchat as harmful to our brain chemistry, rather than a fun app you use to talk to your crush while looking like a robotized, unrealistic, dystopian little bunny.

Graphic by @spooky_soda


A world dominated by selfies and stories

How the new social media stories option is fueling our self-centered lives

Facebook recently added “stories” to its mobile app, similar to the Snapchat and Instagram story features, further pushing us into a narcissistic world. Here we are, in 2017, and almost everybody on the planet now has access to this feature on one social media platform or another.

The stories features on all three of these platforms are guiding us into a world where everyone has an “all about me” attitude. Honestly, I’m all for technology—and I know I may sound like a low-tech old man when I write this—but our world is being defined by selfies and 24-hour time limits.

Every day, people from all around the world feel the need to share their lives with their friends. It started in 2014, when Snapchat released the revolutionary Live Stories feature. Immediately, people started sharing pictures ranging from their Starbucks cups to their bubble baths to personal rants. Then there’s my personal favourite: driving. Yes, users can show the world they’re putting their life at risk in real time.

Although people shared those types of pictures long before stories came out, the stories feature gave an opportunity to share a series of pictures at once, with viewers simply needing to tap to cycle through them.

This social media feature didn’t impact the whole social media world immediately because Snapchat only has 122 million users, according to Statista, a statistics-gathering website. In August 2016, Instagram launched its own “stories” feature, almost exactly like the one on Snapchat. According to Statista, Instagram had over 600 million monthly active users in December 2016.

Most recently, Facebook copied Snapchat and Instagram—two companies it also owns—by releasing a stories feature on its mobile app. Facebook claims they had 1.86 billion monthly active users as of December 2016. From Snapchat to Instagram to Facebook, just like that, the majority of social media users could use a stories feature on some sort of social media app.

The problem with these stories is people think they’re celebrities and their friends want to know about their life. Everyday people watch reality shows about celebrities who have a camera crew following them around for a TV show, and they’re inspired to do the same. Their phone is their camera crew, and these apps are the TV channels.

An article published in the January 31 issue of The Concordian  said social media use could
lead to depression and anxiety in young adults. In my opinion, the stories feature is the root of it all. By choosing glamorous moments of their lives, people only share the happy moments, and the people who see these stories think their own lives are not as perfect in comparison. We used to think celebrities had perfect lives because of what we saw from their reality shows—when in fact they don’t—and now we think our friends have perfect lives because of social media stories.

I also notice a lot of people posting stories of their night outs partying or at a club. I didn’t think much of it until I started going out myself. What I saw shocked me—so many people are on their phones taking selfie videos of them dancing or having a drink. It’s pure narcissism, and it just ruins the night. You’re out with your friends, leave your virtual friends alone and in your pocket.

Like everything else on social media, stories are useful. Sports teams can show fans behind-the-scenes action. Companies have an opportunity to advertise. Snapchat’s Discover, which features stories from news media, companies and live events, has changed the way news is dispersed. But there are just too many negatives to the stories feature—the biggest being its contribution to our ever-growing narcissistic society.

Graphic by Florence Y

Student Life

Snaps go from nudes to news

New “Discover” feature taps into the journalism game

On Jan. 27, everybody’s favourite self-destructing photo messaging app, Snapchat, rolled out a brand new interface wherein users can receive news updates from their media outlets of choice.

When you go to the little list icon at the bottom right-hand corner of the screen, you will see the familiar list of recent “stories” updates from your friends pop up, as usual. From that menu, find the little purple circle icon on the top right-hand side, which will lead you to the Discover menu.

Choose from CNN, MTV, Cosmopolitan, Daily Mail, Snapchat, Bleacher Report, Food Network, National Geographic, People, Vice, Fusion, and Yahoo! News. Touch and hold the icon of your choice, and a loop of “teaser” clips of a chosen daily headline will appear on your screen. Swipe down and Snapchat will lead you to the long form piece that goes along with the visual story at hand, complete with photos, links, and any other embedded media that might appear on the news site itself.

Continue swiping right to see more headline stories from that same source, or swipe left until you get back to the home screen.

Stories are curated by the editors of each outlet, not dictated through social media popularity, and are updated every 24 hours, which, Snapchat insists on their site, “puts the narrative first.” This, they urge, is not social media.

So, can the app we once used to send clandestine nudies and ugly photos of our double chins actually transition into a legitimate disseminator of news?

On one hand, it seems the next logical step that an app that most of us check upteen times a day to receive “news” from friends start giving us news of the broader world as well.

On the other hand, as a journalism student, I can’t help but shake my head and wonder what the hell kind of world we live in when your go-to for news is an app that until recently was reserved for compromising selfies.

In any case, it’s comforting to know that I can now consult Cosmo about their newest technique to please my man before sending that 10-second nude, all without quitting the app.

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