Does Snapchat damage people’s self image?


Over 166 million people use Snapchat every day, many of whom are taking selfies using the filters. But what effect do these filters have on people’s self-image?

Snapchat was released in 2011, and a few years ago brought out the feature where you can use filters to alter the way you look. This is normally through a form of augmented reality – the app puts animated dog ears and a dog nose on your face, or a hat and glasses. There are some filters that slim your face or smooth your skin.

Many people use these filters, which on the surface seem harmless. It’s hard to find a young person’s, especially a young woman’s, social media or dating profile without an image featuring a Snapchat filter. This shows that people like how they look with the filters, especially certain ones.

Beauty standards

Negative self-image has been something that has been in the news, and the media, for years. Models on runways are always a size zero, most models in magazines are photoshopped and airbrushed to make them look a certain way. The media has put out an image of beauty standards that people aim to achieve themselves. In recent years this has started to change, but still many young people aim to look different than they do because of what they see in the media.

graph showing results to 'do you prefer how you look with a filter rather than a normal selfie?'

Do you prefer how you look with a Snapchat filter rather than a normal selfie? [Graph – SurveyMonkey]

When surveyed, nearly 65% of people said they prefer how they look in a selfie with a filter as opposed to one without. This means they prefer the augmented reality over actual reality. Some of the filters that slim your face, or smooth your skin, are effectively the same as photoshop or airbrushing. It’s presenting an unrealistic image to these people that they then want to permanently look like.

“They make me wish I had features that the filters give me and have made me stop taking photos at all of my face,” Ellie Townend, from Poole, said when asked how the filters might affect her.

Difference of opinion

graph showing results for 'do you think that snapchat filters damage people's self esteem?'

Do you think that Snapchat filters damage people’s self esteem? [Graph – SurveyMonkey]

Yet only around 55% of people believe that snapchat filters can be damaging to people’s self-esteem. That means that roughly 10% of people who use Snapchat prefer how they look with the filters but do not believe that it is damaging to their self-image. But the majority do think that filters can have a damaging effect on people.

One respondent, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: “I believe they have an extremely negative impact on people’s self-image, many people I know no longer feel confident enough to take pictures without the use of Snapchat filters.”

Whereas another said: “I don’t think there is a negative or positive effect, rather it is something fun.”

Opinion is clearly quite split on the effects of the filters on people’s self-image. But it is also clear that people do prefer to use filters than to take a selfie without one. The question is, how deep does this go? And will it get worse?

Do you prefer to take Snapchat photos with or without filters?