The True Face of AR Filters
Who here remembers Snapchat's infamous "flower crown" filter from 2015? A show of hands, please.
Everyone with a smartphone simply couldn't get enough of it… until there was a new augmented reality (AR) filter to top the flower crown's popularity. And then came another. And yet another, leading up to the massive collections of AR filters that are presently available on every other social networking application.
Facebook eventually caught up with Snapchat's AR technology in 2017, with the release of Camera Effects on the former's platform. By 2019, AR filters had evolved from being a product from personal use to being an essential tool in promotional strategies.
Blogger Maisha Basharat Zakaria (@youknow_hue) discussed creating her first AR facial filter saying, "I came up with the thought of creating my own filter with a very clear purpose in mind. I wanted everyone to try and see how it'd be if I were to paint on them, with the virtual face paint in question being the software which I used to create the filter. It was a way for me to reach out to my followers and give something back to them. My AR filter helped people connect with my work better, ultimately working out as a great promotional strategy for me."
Sharing her thoughts on AR facial filters, blogger Sharfin Islam (@atinyreader) said, "The very first facial filter I created proved to be rather difficult in the making. But the experience taught me about the kind of creativity that goes into producing such facial filters that virtually mimic face art."
In the present day, brands have come to lean further and further towards AR to help boost sales after surveys revealed that consumers are more likely to respond positively to marketing campaigns which are conducted via AR technology. Unfortunately, amidst its widespread commercialisation, the impact has been substantially negative with respect to cosmetics and physical appearance.
AR filters and photo-editing tools are having a substantial impact on our self-image and shifting beauty standards across the world as customers are becoming increasingly drawn towards AR-based advertising which tend to offer a more immersive and overall customised experience compared to traditional adverts.
After the Covid-19 pandemic hit, the popularity of AR technology took a slightly different turn in terms of communication. Social networking companies adapted to the state of social disconnection across the globe, by making use of AR face filters to encourage social media-oriented interactions. The netizens welcomed the opportunity of being able to convene Zoom meetings from the comfort of their homes, with the only formal mandate being dressing from the waist up.
But when it comes to staring at our own faces the entire time, what effect does such an action have on our self-esteem?
Rather than focusing on the other person in online meetings, we often find ourselves fixated on our own appearance and the lighting, obsessing over the camera angle and getting distracted with the act of continually comparing our appearances to that of others. Enter AR filters. With one tap, the user can revamp both their appearance as well as their surroundings.
Sounds like a bit of a necessity on paper, but the reality behind the prolonged usage of such a technology is a rather murky affair.
The AR facial filters let you see what your face would've looked like if it were more conventionally attractive: if it had smoother skin, bigger eyes, and fuller lips, planting the illusion of "beautification" in your head. Thus begins your unhealthy obsession with AR filters.
Pharmaceutical Sciences major Eliza Sadia Zahin spoke about her current state of dependency on AR filters, saying, "These days I feel like anyone looks better only when an AR filter has been applied to them. I've grown accustomed to thinking of AR filters as absolute necessities everytime I take a photo of myself. I understand that it's an unhealthy habit, but I don't know how to snap out of it."
Frequent usage of AR facial filters can gradually result in the user falling out of touch with their actual physical appearance, since they grow dependent on the filters providing them with an instant AR makeover. Once a user becomes accustomed to seeing a conventionally-attractive, albeit unrealistic, version of themselves on the screen, the transition back to reality is unpleasant to say the least. All of this social media perfection is seeping out of our phones and into our actual lives.
You're not alone if you're feeling more anxious than normal about your physical appearance during these trying times. More individuals are thinking to themselves, "I want to look like that," and going to tremendous measures to achieve their goals.
The fallout from such incidents can be highly harmful to a person's mental health, especially their sense of body image.
Mixed-media artist Syeda Salwa Azam voiced her concerns, saying, "For digital artists, AR filters make for yet another creative avenue to be explored. But the toxicity begins when we're more focused on altering our appearance rather than creating actual art. Now it's all about having an unrealistic physical appearance."
It seems that how people believe they appear on the exterior determines their whole value and how they feel about themselves on the inside, which AR filters affect in detrimental ways, with people's insecurities manifesting as body dysmorphic disorder.
"I stopped using AR filters entirely because whenever I did it made me depressed. It made me want to look more like my filtered self and hindered my self-confidence a lot," shared 18-year-old Afra Islam.
The internet has evolved from "a place to be" to "a place to become", and it's imperative to recognise the difference. As the frequency of face-to-face contact decreases and our time spent scrolling online increases, it is more vital than ever to be wary of our mental health.
As digital natives, we are constantly bombarded with options to analyse one's looks and fixate on one's flaws. When you use social media filters to edit a photo of yourself, you may believe you've produced a better-looking version of yourself. Evading unrealistic beauty standards is easier said than done. The ultimate goal is to be able to take them with a grain of salt, and acknowledge AR filters for what they are: augmented reality.
1. Vogue (August 3, 2020). How Staring At Our Faces On Zoom Is Impacting Our Self-Image.
2. Psychology Today (January, 2020). Selfies, Filters, and Snapchat Dysmorphia: How Photo-Editing Harms Body Image.
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