Social media users have been up in arms over Snapchat filters (two to be exact) that was deem as body shaming and accused of whitewashing. The two filters are Coachella inspired flower headband and the “beautifying” filter. Users have condemned Snapchat, inciting that the filters makes one’s skin look way lighter than normal. The dictionary meaning of whitewashing is “to gloss over or cover up vices, crimes or scandals or to exonerate by means of a perfunctory investigation or through biased presentation of data” particularly towards governments, corporations and other organisations. However a more appropriate definition is the Internet version which is to act or look like a white person.
Some of the reactions on Twitter we as such:
— Romney Smith (@RomneyANjax) May 17, 2016
People quick to complain #snapchat filter whitening their skin, but would do it in a heartbeat on any photo app.
— Angel Addams (@angel_addams) May 17, 2016
While I have no qualms about the filters, the excessive usage of it shows how uncomfortable we are with our skin and how we perceived the certain enhancements from these filters as beautiful.
Both filters create a hazy effect on the screen, on top of slimming down the nose and chin to look more angular and having bright, wide, anime eyes, which is really creepy for me. These filters are not the first one to get slammed by social media users. Recently when Snapchat unveiled its Bob Marley filter, many users were unhappy and equating the filter to a black face, which is a no-no.
There are many questions that are running through my mind as I question about social media and how content shown on social media is always far from the truth. This issue raises the question of where do we draw the line and balance between fun, hilarious filters without offending or inciting disapproval over the colour of our skin. I believe that when we read about Snapchat “whitewashing” filters, you have to ask yourself, what was the real purpose of you using Snapchat and do we really need to use these filters?
I know a friend, who would record her Snapchat videos using only the “beautifying” filter because it makes her look ‘chio’; meaning beautiful in Hokkien. It is as if one isn’t beautiful already without the filters. Filters, enhancements through phone apps or computer software are common, but these augmentations are only for, perhaps, “work” occasions like photo shoots. Similarly with the complicated makeup techniques that makeup artists’ use to create the desired look for their clients, again on special occasions like a red carpet even. However, the desire to look perfect through makeup and photoshop apps have become an everyday necessity for some women and especially on social media. It is difficult to avoid scrolling through Instagram without stumbling upon a picture of a girl with that perfect makeup look.
While Instagram is known for the picture perfect images uploaded onto the site, Snapchat started out as a fun and authentic way to record your life with no frills or enhancement. So when we harp on these Snapchat filters, it feels like we are losing the essence of a fun social media platform. Filters are just add-ons to create your story, just like an emoji that helps you convey your message properly. However, Snapchat should have considered about the impact is Coachella and beautifying filters will have on its users. Maybe the app should have learn its lesson from the Bob Marley fiasco and could have been more tactful this time round.
Application aside, the I believe that users of social media apps and sites should be more conscious of the choices they make when they upload a picture. In conclusion, Aimee Simeon, assistant editor of Pop Sugar sums up about the usage of filters on social media on the site:
“Instagram, Snapchat, and their filters are another way to tell your story. But don’t use them as a crutch that prevents you from being proud of what you see when the filters go off. Instead, celebrate who you are — made up or stripped down. You might be surprised at the way the “real” you will be received.
While I will find it hard to not excitedly transform my face into an alien-like creature or into an animated puppy at the press of a button, I will always remember my reason for joining Snapchat in the first place: to be the most raw, authentic (filter-free) version of me.”