In 2005, I initiated my ascent into the online world by joining a social networking platform called Hi5. At the time, Hi5 was attracting massive amounts of attention from teenagers all across the globe because it was one of the first few platforms to give each individual a safe space to express their thoughts and connect with those whose thoughts resonate with their own. Over these past twelve years, hundreds of social networking sites have gained traction amongst all age groups worldwide. With the rapid technological advances such as the smartphones with good quality cameras have resulted in popularity of social networking apps like Instagram and Snapchat. These apps are highly popular because they are specifically tailored for sharing images. We are not only drawn to them but tend to pay more attention to visual forms of communication.
Fit in or be left out from the online world
The need for using social media filters can be categorised as a 'performance' of sort throughout our daily social interactions.
Body image shaming
The use of these apps becomes highly problematic when apps like Instagram not only establish a certain body image but the features within these apps aid each user to represent only a specific part of their identity which may be imitated on the basis of popularly established body image. Body image, which is otherwise subjective, is created, reaffirmed and recreated with the help of the features provided by most photo editing apps. "Ever since a child, I have had a broad body structure which makes me look bigger on camera and is something that I am insecure about. It is because of this that before putting a photo on Instagram for people on my profile, I use certain features and go through all the filters and post a photo with the filter that makes me look thinner and more appealing" said Tamiksha, a student of Delhi University.
Hide your fat
Apps like WonderTouch enable users to mirror a 'perfect body' by providing them with the option of covertly blurring any imperfection, as perceived by them on their bodies. The apps also have an option of simulating cleavages or abs when non-existent or faint. The use of any of these features extinguishes the agency of establishing an individual identity which is otherwise determined through self-reflection, consciousness, and evaluation of self in comparison to others around them .
What filter fits
Filters on apps like Instagram and Snapchat serve as a tool for virtual transformations, an attempt to enable people to sync with the society's opinion of the existing aesthetic dichotomy. Some of the filters whiten the skin tone thereby enunciating skin colour biases. Many of the filters are used because they are able to hide any skin inflammation or acne. From the initial stage of taking a picture, individuals are unconsciously but continuously modifying themselves before the camera portraying a version of themselves that they hope to be. The need for using these filters to represent the best of themselves to the community at large, if viewed in a theatrical sense, can be categorised as a 'performance' of sort throughout our daily social interactions.
By introducing quirks within the filters like flower crowns, dog's ears-nose-tongue, big sparkling eyes, Snapchat has managed to turn a selfie-era into a filtered selfie era. Filters on apps like Snapchat and their usage creates a power system amongst the users thereby characterising the use of different filters as a way of creating an identity within the bounds of the cultural norms imposed by the users on this platform. "As a blogger, I am constantly using platforms like Instagram and Snapchat because of which I am constantly playing with filters. There have been times when I've put up a post with the dog-filter on snapchat and I've received texts from many guys and surprisingly a lot of girls who have labeled me as a 'wanna-be' and a 'hoe'," expressed Sakhi Lugani,co-founder of an online jewelry store, Naakhrewaali.
It is what it is
Exposure of 'perfection' on social media not only distorts the sense of self but also pressurizes the individual into modifying their bodies and themselves in order to fit into the preconceived notions of the society. The concept of blurring the lines between reality and digital fantasy ultimately promotes the message of impersonating identities. These identities differ from their own personal identity but in cohesion with the mindset and prevailing social norms constitutional to the society from time to time.