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Are Filters on TikTok causing psychological distress?

TikTok has become one of the most used social media platforms, reaching over 3.5 billion downloads worldwide. It is an entertainment platform where creators post short videos, create trends and challenges, spread information, or even cause turbulent social movements.

Filters are a function on the platform, that specifically during and since lockdown, have become exceedingly popular. They can be used to make your face disproportionally hilarious or to participate in quizzes or games. However, the most viral filters on the social media app are beauty-enhancement filters. These are filters which use algorithms to strategically modify your facial features into looking symmetrically perfect, add makeup, and make your skin flawless.

Beauty filters make you more confident on screen, however, that illusion only lasts for a few posts, where you might later find yourself comparing your social media self to your real appearance. Parents, experts, and even content creators are sharing concerns on whether the filters have been causing more harm than good, making users divide themselves online on comments, either criticising users with filters on or complementing their “beauty”.

Why do experts show concerns regarding the effect of the filters?

Platforms such as TikTok expose viewers to many, if not most, content creators using the modifying filters in their videos. Research constructed by BBC proves that, consequently, this tends to make the viewers feel less confident or even worsen their self-perception.

According to clinical psychologist Jaci Lopez Witmer, realistic beauty enhancement filters can indeed affect a person’s self-perception, and in extreme cases, even cause body dysmorphia and anxiety.

Furthermore, therapist Lindsay Fleming, a “trailblazer in modern mental health prevention”, states that “filters can cause psychological distress, mental health issues, and lead to poor body image perception in children and teenagers”. According to the doctor, young generations are given a false idea of how people look. The technology assembled to make a person’s face symmetric, and spotless, with huge lips and a snatched jawline, influences people into creating a false sense of reality. This can become an obsession over someone or many peoples’ appearance.

Filters are responding to beauty standards; beauty standards are changing in response to filters

Beyond the face filters, there are now ways to change your physical appearance in the video as well as in photos. Ultimately, people consider changing their faces permanently to fit into the false beauty standards.

Further research made by BBC states that teenage girls who are often exposed to the filters are more likely to consider cosmetic surgery.

Even though there is an obvious impact on adolescents, it seems as if adults have been affected by the standards of the media as well. Many adults, who have been navigating social media have proved to be comparing themselves on and off-screen. Plastic surgeons have noted that besides the fact that cosmetic surgery has been spiking numbers, they have also been requested to apply filter-like features to clients' appearances.

Using filters

Up to now, filters have only been becoming more popular, as AI has been improving by the second. Filters have become more realistic and easier to disguise, making viewers increasingly intimidated or judgy online, creating a not-so-comfortable safe-space atmosphere as many felt the platform could have potentially been.

Women have generally shown to care more about specific controversiality, and have proved to feel strongly towards their appearance online, making the content, as well as the use of filters, more famous amongst themselves.

Whether TikTok is showing any signs of concern about the matter, as far as we know, the platform is not working on solving the issue, which is taking a mental toll on viewers all over the world.

Works Cited

“20 Essential TikTok Statistics You Need to Know in 2022.” The Social Shepherd,

America, Good Morning. “TikTok Face Filters Rack up Millions of Views While Stirring up Controversy.” Good Morning America, Accessed 27 Mar. 2023.

Brancato, Ava. “Harmful TikTok Filters Impact Mental Health.” The Voice,

“Home.” Lindsay Fleming, LPC, Accessed 27 Mar. 2023.

Omana, Breana. “Body Shaming on TikTok Is Serious Problem.” The Daily Targum, 1 May 2020,

Ruggeri, Amanda. “The Problems with TikTok’s Controversial “Beauty Filters.””,

“TikTok’s New “Bold Glamour” Filter Is so Realistic People Think It’s Problematic | CNN Business.”, 7 Mar. 2023, Accessed 20 Apr. 2023.

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