We have to think about the impact of all this, believes the organization ÉquiLibre, which decided this year to highlight these new possibilities of the digital age on the occasion of the Day without makeup, held this Tuesday.

It is not a question of encouraging people to stop using them, even less of demonizing those who use them, but rather of questioning the use that is made of them and the illusion of perfection that these filters generate, explains Andrée-Ann Dufour Bouchard, nutritionist and project manager at ÉquiLibre, whose mission is to promote the development of a positive body image.

“It creates another norm or another pressure, not just in life when you leave home, but also on social media,” she sums up.

Filters are very common and also very simple to use. They are found in social networks – Instagram and TikTok in the lead – or in mobile applications like Facetune or FaceApp. These “beauty” filters can do just about anything: hide wrinkles, even out skin tone, flush cheeks, darken lashes. Some change facial features outright: higher eyebrows, sculpted cheeks, thinner nose, fuller lips… The “Young” filter on FaceApp gives the pleasant (and confronting) illusion of looking 20 years younger. Bold Glamour, on TikTok, turns everyone into a supermodel and is extremely realistic, even in video footage.

Even the Zoom platform offers a filter that discreetly allows you to “retouch the appearance”. In one click, exit dark circles and fine lines. If you find your colleagues more attractive than you during your work meetings, this may be the explanation.

“It seems like you just don’t know it’s changed anymore; it’s the image you get used to,” says Andrée-Ann Dufour Bouchard, who sees something insidious in it. Now, she says, there’s not only a disconnect between us and Hollywood stars, but also online, between us and our loved ones.

“It always continues to emphasize, ultimately, the importance given to appearance, which can have significant consequences,” continues Ms. Dufour Bouchard. Consequences on self-esteem first, but also on the time we give to our appearance to the detriment of other elements, such as hobbies or learning new things.

At the end of May, the United States Surgeon General produced a report on the effects of social networks on the mental health of young people. The social comparison is precisely addressed there. A review of 20 studies found a “significant relationship” between social media use, body image concerns and eating disorders, Dr. Vivek Murthy said in his report. “Social media-induced social comparison is associated with body dissatisfaction, eating disorders, and depressive symptoms,” he writes.

The studies essentially show correlations, not cause and effect relationships, nuance Emmanuelle Parent, executive director and co-founder of the Center for Online Emotional Intelligence. People who are already vulnerable to social comparison could therefore tend to use social networks more, which would make them even more vulnerable.

The solution, according to her, is first to ensure that young people evolve in a stimulating environment, practice stimulating activities and have access, at school, to the services they need if they have health issues. mental. “All of this will probably have a far greater impact than simply banning filters,” said Emmanuelle Parent.

Still, she agrees, the proliferation of such filters remains “concerning.” “On an individual scale, these are gestures that seem innocent, but collectively, when everyone does it, it means that we no longer show up with our tired faces, finally”, illustrates Emmanuelle Parent.

Once again, we insist at ÉquiLibre, the idea is not to encourage people who use these filters to judge themselves. People can, however, reflect on how they feel when they see these polished images on their social networks and, if necessary, clean up the accounts they follow. “And we can publish photos of us a little more in action to enhance being rather than always appearing to be,” concludes Andrée-Ann Dufour Bouchard.