Into the Looking Glass: Consequences of A.I. Beauty Filters
By Arie Po. and Arie Tu.
AI-Based Beauty is Impacting Young Women
Are Digital Beauty Filters just fun, or are they inducing self-insecurity? Beauty filters often reflect "trending" or socially accepted beauty ideals in popular culture. Beauty filters’ wide accessibility makes reflecting societal beauty standards easy; with the click of a button or the swipe of a finger, anyone can transform. However, on the flip side, many report mental health challenges around beauty standards and widely used filters.
"The perfect face, perfect clothes, perfect body, and if you don't fit within that mold, you're an outcast. You're a slob. Or you're just ugly, but that's not true,” says a 15-year-old Sora student Jane Smith*.
Smith expresses the personal dissonance of many teenage high school girls. Like many others, she is caught between augmented reality, her developing female body, and self-acceptance. This dilemma creates a new precedence for human mental health and physical expectations in our digital generation.
Augmented reality allows people to change photographs to fit cultural beauty standards. Never before has image-altering technology reached such heights. Beauty filters significantly affect young people at a critical stage of brain development. This new, personalized digital reality impacts physical self-acceptance and mental health.
*Name has been changed to protect anonymity.
Cymri Eleazer, a 19-year-old college student and former Sora student, has been using social media for most of her life. She realizes the short-term nature of beauty filters and has insight into how to mentally process them.
"One big piece of advice that I try to remind myself of constantly is that beauty standards are just trends that come and go,” she states. “...it's like fast fashion. It comes as popular, and then it dies out, and it's old."
Eleazer says the "blush trend" exemplifies this. Many young women apply blush to the bridges of their noses and across their faces. Eleazer relates the story of a woman who hid her naturally red nose with foundation because it was not popular when she was younger. Now her naturally red nose is the pinnacle of beauty, she says.
Beauty trends can fluctuate quickly and continue to challenge young people to keep up with such rapidly shifting standards. These changing standards of acceptance can be a severe blow to youthful self-esteem. What other people perceive as beautiful will continually change.
"While Americans spend billions of dollars per year to fix less-than-perfect teeth, a recent craze among Japanese women was to pay to have straight teeth made crooked. We refer derisively to this look as ‘snaggleteeth’ or ‘fangs.’ Still, many Japanese men find what they call yaeba (double tooth) attractive,” states wellness expert Anne Haines in her Forbes Magazine article “From ‘Instagram Face’ To ‘Snapchat Dysmorphia’: How Beauty Filters Are Changing The Way We See Ourselves.”
Trends and standards differ significantly according to culture. So is beauty really in the eye of the beholder? For millennia, specific cultural beauty standards have been linked to subjective ideals. These standards can define a form of genetic superiority, survival of the fittest, and romantic ideology. Who sets the standards for idealistic beauty, and are they subject to the preferences of different cultures and trends?
Fast Fashion = Fast Cash
Could this highly marketed, subjective beauty standard be a financial driver for beauty product consumption, services, and surgeries? Companies such as cosmetic surgery, makeup, and clothing manufacturers, to name a few, all stand to benefit from conformity to cultural beauty standards. These standards are made more personal through A.I. beauty filters.
"Selfies and face filters illuminate the small details that would normally go unnoticed, like asymmetry…It's no surprise, then, that the rise of face filters and editing apps has been correlated with a surge in cosmetic surgeries," says Haines.
A.I. technology and its high level of accessibility is our digital age’s expression of the ancient construct that social and physical acceptance relies on fitting beauty standards. These often impossible ideals are now digitally available to anyone with a smartphone and camera to share their augmented appearance with their social media community. This A.I. technology allows anyone to achieve the culturally imposed standard of beauty, but this may have a cost to both the individual and the next generation.
"There have been times when…I want to reach that beautiful standard. So I think [beauty filters] have negatively impacted me…[and have] caused insecurity. Not only is it comparing someone else to you, but comparing a better you to you,” states Jane Smith*, a Sora student.
Personalized A.I. beauty filters, made widely accessible to impressionable minds in our youth culture, exacerbate mental health issues, cause an obsession with ideals rather than authenticity, and create a disconnect between the image we present of ourselves and the appearance of who we really are.
Over half of girls use filters every day and 80% have used an app to change their appearance before the age of 13, according to Dove’s Self Esteem Project research, an information resource sponsored by the brand Dove.
"The inability to live up to the edited face can trigger anxiety, depression and eating disorders too,” says Dr. Helen Egger, a child psychiatrist. “In this day and age, we are all trying to 'fit in,' but then where does our authenticity go? How can we become strong individuals if we are so focused on our appearance to others?”
Should Beauty Filters Be Removed?
Eleazer says that the removal of A.I. beauty filters "would be beneficial, for sure”, but wouldn’t necessarily fix all the problems. “I feel like people have kind of been insecure…throughout time before beauty filters came into play…" she states. She says that even without beauty filters, “there's still things to compare to, like other people and models and stuff like that.”
However, she believes that even if the removal of beauty filters would not abolish insecurity entirely, it would significantly make it easier for young people to accept themselves.
"Social media is [used by] young people and growing minds…so I feel like if we took away the beauty filters, that would kind of lessen the state of insecurity in the upcoming generations…[because]...you're not changing your face, and you're not, like, wishing you had these fake faces of other people that you see. So I feel like it [the removal of A.I. beauty filters] would be beneficial in the long run.”