True story: I have a love/hate relationship with Snapchat filters

When I open my Snapchat to find that the latest filter slims down my nose to something that even Gigi Hadid would pay for, it honestly makes me feel a little bit uncomfortable. Isn’t Snapchat supposed to serve as a platform to share our every-day life with others, not as a method of reinforcing beauty standards? We use it to send each other little updates, and yes — many apps, these days, including Instagram, offer filters for these snaps of life — but some of these filters take away the very things that make us unique.

For me, the ups and downs of my life show across my face. Applying to college gave me enough acne for 10 fully hormonal teenagers. I get three hours of sleep, and my eyes often flaunt designer bags. I sit for an exam, and my hair somehow undoes itself. I have scars, moles, and birthmarks. And, yes, often I do wish I could look like Kylie Jenner. She’s hot. But, the ultimate truth about myself is that I am not Kylie Jenner. I am me, and instead of embracing my features in an innocent, flower-crown queen Snapchat filter, they are erased. My round cheeks disappear. My cheekbones are suddenly much more prominent. My eyes grow bigger and more glittery. My face is smooth as plastic. And, above all that, my birthmarks are completely gone.

On a personal level, my birthmarks and I go way back. This is something I like to talk about a lot because, simply put, they’re what makes me me. I am the only one that has these these particular marks in these exact places — and it took me years to accept them for what they are. All throughout middle school, I never put my hair up because of the moles on my neck. People used to call me a vampire, because they are placed in such a way that it kind of looks like a vampire bit me. I even had a birthmark on my back removed because I was so afraid of people seeing it when we went to the beach. It was only after Gigi Hadid became relevant that I finally came out of my shell; she didn’t care, and neither should I. So when Snapchat filters regard my birthmarks as something that can, should, and will be erased, it is not only hurtful but brings me back to my pre-teen years of anxiety, and I remember the fear I had of putting my hair up.

But sometimes, I’ll admit, I do like the “help” that these Snapchat filters gives me — even just so I can give my friends a “good morning” snap the morning after we’ve gone out, and not look like a complete zombie. Suddenly, after waking up from a night of being out with my friends, with a quick filter on the app, the mascara smeared under my eyes is suddenly lighter, my red face is suddenly contoured, and tired eyes are suddenly big and glittery. It is in these moments that I don’t feel like my flaws are erased, necessarily, but I’m just being made to look a tad bit more awake for the moment so that I can send a quick message without feeling self-conscious. With the help of a filter, I miraculously turn from a zombie girl into the image of what my friends think I look like all the time.

So here’s where I am forced to ask myself a question: am I really that upset about my face being shaped to fit what society (and social media) thinks I should look like? What can I say, the puppy filter (that completely covers up my nose) is the cutest thing that’s ever happened to my face, hands down. The graphics of the lioness filter are beautiful and satisfying. The colorful bug-eye filter makes my eyes a shade of blue that they would never be otherwise. The filter that is simply there to make me look like a Goddess (you know the one I’m talking about, where you watch it swipe all of your “imperfections” away) has me marveling at my own image.

As a girl who’s on Snapchat at least a full hour every day, I can say first-hand it would be heartbreaking for them to take away the filters completely. But, maybe they can just make the filters less about how we look in an aesthetic sense, and more about fun. It’s funny to make my teeth look extra big and my eyes look extra small. It’s super cute to look like a puppy or a bunny, and the holiday themed filters are festive and a fun thing to look forward to. It’s only when I look in the screen and hardly recognize myself do I think, “hmm, maybe this isn’t so good.” But as far as my standards go, I’m not going to let these filters use up any more of my energy, when it comes to my self-esteem, or my phone battery.

August Graves is a high school senior in New York City. In her free time, she writes, plays soccer, tries to play with her cat, memorizes all the words to Hamilton, and binge watches food shows like Chopped and Master Chef Junior. She will be attending college in LA next fall, and is so ready to begin her post-high school journey. Find her on Instagram and Snapchat: augustmarion.

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