Instagram bans plastic surgery filters – but will it help?

Fuller lips, higher cheekbones, perfect noses – all entirely achievable, and you needn’t go under the knife! Thanks to Instagram’s plethora of plastic surgery filters, all it takes is a flick of the wrist to transform your face into that of, well, any girl in any magazine. Whether you choose to add dog ears, or would rather stick to the more ‘natural’ filter that accentuates your own features, there’s something for everyone. But are these filters just frivolous fun or a bit fucked up?

I don’t know about you, but I greatly appreciate the humble ‘subtle’ filter that Instagram offers, especially after a heavy night. I prefer how I look with all my blemishes wiped out and I’m sure that others would prefer to see that on their phone screen too. However, it’s not my real face that I’m posting – I don’t look like that, nor will I ever.

And the growing use of social media seems to be preceding a huge interest in plastic surgery. I’m sure you’ll have seen the filters that can give you a taste of what you’d look like after a cheeky session under the knife, or after a few well-placed botox injections? What seems like harmless fun has contributed to a rise in our desire to undergo cosmetic surgery – especially among young women. While reports on Instagram’s impact on mental health are more common these days (remember the Flaunt Your Wealth challenge?), the effect specifically regarding how we feel about our appearance has been less researched. Yet common sense leads me to think that if scrolling through your feed is making you feel less worthy, or you’re comparing yourself to the images you see – the effect is not going to be positive.

In light of increasing complaints surrounding Instagram filters and the unrealistic, unhelpful image they portray, Instagram has vowed to remove “all effects associated with plastic surgery from the Instagram effects gallery, and postponing approval of new effects associated with plastic surgery until further notice.”

And while this is incredible progress with regards to improving our mental health, I can’t help but question firstly how seriously they will take this pledge, and secondly, what it actually means.

By “filters associated with plastic surgery,” do they mean any skin-clearing, eye-brightening filter? Or is this specific to the ‘fix me’ style filter which seemed to spark this whole debate? I feel like many filters will slip through the net where the line between acceptable or not is a little blurred. Furthermore, as much as I agree that the advertising of seemingly flawless faces is not helpful to anyone’s mental health, is banning these filters fair? For most of us, they’re a bit of fun, a way to be creative and have a laugh.

Plus, will it even help with body positivity? There are more ways than just Instagram to edit a photo, and while there are still ads for appearance-altering options, will this make a difference? We’ve all seen how the media has treated Adele over the past two weeks – comparing images of her before and after her recent weight loss. The pressure to always look your best on social media is enough to make most of us want to edit our flaws.

So although I’m glad that Instagram has recognised the problem that some of its filters can create, I don’t know if they’ve found the right solution yet. The new protocol seems unclear, and as much as I want it to work, I also quite enjoy being able to erase my own flaws on a Sunday morning…

Megan Rigby

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