How are TikTok And Instagram changing our aesthetic self-image?
Be As Beautiful as Your Avatar for Once!
In today’s digital world, where social media like TikTok have a considerable impact on young people’s self-image, the use of beauty filters like “Bold Glamour” can have a sensitive impact on body image and self-perception. These filters, which convey a perfect and idealized self-image, can lead to a distorted reality and have serious effects on the physical and psychological well-being of adolescents. It is concerning that young people are increasingly drawn into a world of comparison and distortion, which can lead to an insecure self-image and a dysfunctional relationship with their bodies.
For a recent article in STERN, I described my experience of how social media creates new beauty trends and spreads them at breakneck speed. Whether it’s Vampire Lifting, Bella Eyes or Russian Lips, all of these treatments can be traced back to an origin on Twitter, Instagram, or TikTok. Often even on a single post of a celebrity, as with Kim Kardashian and her “Vampire Facial“. In this post, I’d like to expand a bit on my thoughts on this.
The Dark Side of Bold Glamour: How TikTok is Changing Teen Body Image
The importance of social media for communication among young people cannot be overestimated. TikTok is one of the most widely used platforms for teens to share and consume content. With more than 1 billion active users worldwide, TikTok has an immense reach. One of the most popular features of TikTok are the filters. These can smooth faces, highlight cheekbones or make lips look fuller. Filters like “Bold Glamour” are specifically designed to perfect the aesthetic appearance and make those who use them appear more attractive. Unlike previous versions, they look completely lifelike. If you didn’t know that such a filter was at work, you wouldn’t doubt the authenticity of the person on the screen for a second.
However, there is a problem with these filters. They show an idealized image of beauty and influence body image and self-perception. Especially by young people, who are thus encountered in an already difficult phase of their lives. During puberty, emotions run wild, and self-perception is often enough marked by real or perceived weaknesses. If a young person uses these filters and then looks at their unchanged face, it can quickly lead to a feeling of dissatisfaction with their actual appearance. The look in the mirror is then only farting. And worse, if teenagers regularly use such filters, it can lead to a real addiction, as they no longer feel beautiful and attractive without them. What does that lead to?
In the STERN article, I describe my experience with a young woman, just turned twenty. She showed me her profile picture on the dating app “Tinder”, which had been optimized by beauty filters and hardly matched her real appearance. With this picture, she achieves many more matches than with truthful photos, whether I could not “style” her according to the optimized picture. I had to disappoint them. On the one hand, this is due to a lack of feasibility; on the other hand, however, it is based on ethical considerations. In my eyes, such wishes already fall into an area where psychologists should be consulted. I therefore reject such treatment requests on principle. But they exist. And with innovations like these beauty filters, which look more lifelike than ever before, they are very likely to be amplified and occur much more frequently.
From filters to cosmetic surgery: how social media is driving the normalization of aesthetic surgery
The effects of these filters can be serious. It is already true that if young people constantly compare their appearance with others, they can feel uncomfortable and insecure. With these filters, however, the comparison refers to unattainable, artificially created perfection. The disappointment about one’s own imperfection thus becomes all the greater. And not only that. Because the message that unconsciously resonates is: “Look, you could look like that – if only you wanted to!”. The decrease in self-esteem, eating disorders or depression are thus not infrequently joined by the desire to get closer to the ideal, even if it is on a surgeon’s table.
Thus, the most potentially dangerous effect of the beauty trends propagated by filters and on social media is the normalization of plastic surgery and aesthetic procedures. When teens constantly see images of idealized beauty standards created by filters and other processing, they may believe that these standards are attainable if they just have surgery. This development is not new and the aesthetics profession is not entirely innocent of it either, having contributed to it with thousands of unrealistic “before and after” photos circulating on the web. Such photos are banned in Germany for good reasons, a fact that does not seem to have filtered through to all practitioners. The false impression of guaranteed aesthetic perfection that can be achieved through simple surgery can lead to the normalization of plastic surgery and cause adolescents to take inappropriate or dangerous measures to conform to the computer-generated ideal.
Beauty medicine in charge: why doctors should not serve every questionable trend
It is important for youth to understand that the beauty standards promoted by filters and social media are mostly unrealistic and can lead to a distorted image of beauty. It is also essential for parents, educators, and health professionals to be aware of the impact of social media filters on adolescents’ body image and self-perception and to help them build a healthy body image and positive self-image.
Using social media filters can lead to a sense of dependence on the digital world and interfere with the ability to maintain a healthy body image and positive self-image. It is critical for teens and parents to be aware that filters often present an unrealistic image of beauty, and that it is important not to compare one’s appearance to others.
In this context, cosmetic medicine has the responsible role of educating and warning. The 16-year-old, who wants to have her lips injected in an almost absurd way, does not need to be treated just because her parents have signed consent. You can also talk to her responsibly and tell her that the short-lived nature of such beauty trends are not worth the risks she is taking with such a procedure. She can be told that by chasing such a trend at such a young age, she is entering slippery terrain that will see intervention after intervention for the rest of her life. As a physician, you can also say “no” at the decisive moment.
About the author:
Dr. med. univ. Eva Maria Strobl is the owner of LIPS and SKIN Aesthetic Medicine practice in Munich. She is a trained specialist in general medicine (MedUni Vienna) and has over 10 years of specialization in non-surgical aesthetic procedures. She is a member of the German Society for Aesthetic Botulinum Therapy e.V. (DGBT), the German Society of Anti-Aging Medicine e.V. (GSAAM) and of Network Global Health. She publishes regularly on her blog and on DocCheck.