TikTok’s #TimeWarpScan Is Just Another Body-Shaming Tool

The effect allows users to distort the proportions of their bodies.

TikTok’s #TimeWarpScan is one of the latest filters to tangle with people’s imaginations. While a blue line glides across the screen, horizontally or vertically, it freezes the scene and allows users to create illusions. It’s gotten a lot of attention for its ability to transform people’s realities into comedic or fantastical moments, and popular trends include smoke illusions, mirror doubles, eyebrow squiggles, and Tim Burton characters.

This effect started gathering attention in September and has currently gained over 12 million views on TikTok, but in true social media fashion, some trends are more than just a joke.  Since the filter distorts proportions, some people are warping themselves to create “perfect noses,” larger butts, and flatter stomachs. By dragging the phone along to create larger body parts or sucking in their stomachs, TikTokers can re-imagine their features—and it’s not healthy.

tiktok #timewarpscan

These tricks have birthed the “what my family sees” versus “what my boyfriend/friends see” trend, which (as it clearly states) has the creator show the different ways that their body is viewed by others. There’s also the “how I see myself” version, but the biggest takeaway here is this: Not only are these contrasting views exaggerated (and turn fatness into something humorous or shameful, rather than a normal body type), but they exclude and diminish the creator’s view of themself and rely entirely on other people’s gazes. These temporary illusions seem harmless at first, but they’re actually reinforcing fat-phobic systems that thrive on TikTok.

Some TikTok users have called out this trend for being unhealthy, with one saying, “Yay another trend 2 encourage ppl to hate their bodies I’m so excited -_-.” However, others are dismissing it as meaningless and defending it. Creator Marcy Castro replied to this comment on her post, saying, “This isn’t my intention at all, I love my body as it is.”

In user Jenna DePetrillo’s post, her illusions feature a larger butt in her boyfriend’s eyes and a bigger stomach in her family’s eyes. This was something many viewers understood, as they commented that their families body-shame them regularly. While people are relating to the body-shaming they receive from loved ones, that’s part of the reason the trend is easy to brush off as harmless: It’s relatable. Relatable content, even if it’s emotionally painful, is easy to digest, especially since the online community is known for its self-deprecating humor. But it’s also known for being a hotbed of shame and subtle body enhancement prompts.

Many people have reimagined themselves in a mirror, in fitting rooms, or in the privacy of their thoughts, and for some, this could cause body dysmorphia. When a bunch of trends actively promote thinness or curviness, it can become a threat to our mental and physical health. Take, for example, the “what I eat in a day” trend. It promotes eating disorders and unhealthy eating habits by sharing extreme dietary practices that encourage weight loss. Another example is the chubby face filter, a filter that shows a user with a fatter face, often accompanied by an expression of relief or a caption about the user’s relief that this is not what they really look like. 

The #TimeWarpScan treats fatness as undesirable and further pushes body-shaming. Remember that just because the content is delivered through “jokes” doesn’t mean it’s harmless. Lots of TikTok users have been convinced that if they could alter their appearance, they’d be able to meet a fraction of society’s beauty standards—so people need to be reminded, just as strongly as they are told that they’re not perfect, that they are beautiful the way they are, filter-free.

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