How the old age filter on TikTok affects our brain

LLeave it on social media to give us fun new ways to explore our existential dread. Case in point: TikTok’s latest Frankenfilter ages you in real time, using your facial features to predict what you might look like in the future. The now-viral ‘Aged’ filter has already been used in 13.2 million videos, horrifying the app’s user base and raising questions about the realities of visible aging.

After seeing the likes of Kylie Jenner and Courtney Cox share their results, I decided to try the ‘Aged’ filter for myself. AND oh boyI wish I hadn’t. Looking back I was a complete stranger. I saw wrinkles. Lines. Bags under the eyes. double chin In the words of Jamie Lee Curtis in i miss friday: It looked like the guardian of the crypt. On every other subject, these features are inconspicuous to me (beautiful, even), but seeing them on myself, decades earlier than I expected, was especially jarring.

Naturally, I went on Instagram to find out if my colleagues had voluntarily marked themselves with the ‘Aged’ filter just like I had. Colleagues quickly flooded my inbox. These women, like me, were freaking out. eternal shit over simulated lines and wrinkles. “She literally put me in a spiral; I had Botox on Tuesday for the first time,” my dear friend said. “Then I legitimately bought $200 worth of skin care products,” another replied.

It is now clear to me how widely shared these feelings of shock and insecurity are among those who were daring enough to try the filter for themselves. I wondered: Why is it *so* freaking unsettling to see ourselves this way?

How the Aged filter works and what it can tell us about how we will age

Filters have come a long way since we were first introduced to Snapchat’s “puppy” in 2011. Instead of simply superimposing an image over your face, the new class of filters uses artificial intelligence (AI) to distort your features. The Aging filter takes things a step further, applying common signs of visible aging to your unique facial structure to create a predictive picture of how you *could* look as you age. If you’re wondering why your older version seems a bit more… geriatric than your friend’s (or Kylie Jenners), is because real-life features like high cheekbones, deep-set eyes, strong jawlines, and beauty marks can affect your results.

@drmonicakieu Getting old is a privilege! It will happen to all of us, but there are definitely ways to accept it on your own terms. Let’s commit to aging with kindness and self-confidence ❤️ ✨ #aginggracefully #agingwell #agingfilter #agedfilter #drkieutips ♬ original sound – Dr. Monica Kieu

With that in mind, plastic surgeons and estheticians currently herald the ‘Aging’ filter for its hyper-realistic representation of visible aging. In her now-viral TikTok, board-certified facial plastic surgeon Monica Kieu, DO, explains what makes the filter so accurate. “Our bodies produce more melanin (as we age), which causes these hyperpigmented spots; we produce more collagen as we age, which causes skin thinning and wrinkles,” Kieu says. “What many people realize is that we also lose more bone as we age,” she continues, “and this loss of skeletal support makes the eyes look more hollow.”

Despite this, New York-based neuropsychologist Sanam Hafeez, PsyD, points out the limitations of the smart filter. She doesn’t know that she uses SPF like it’s his job, or that he eliminated alcohol from her diet: she only knows what his face looks like at the exact moment he turns on the filter.

“First of all, when it comes to aging, the most powerful predictor of how you will age is if you look at your parents,” says Hafeez. “You’re going to get old most likely better That’s because your parents didn’t drink 15 concoctions in the morning, take supplements, or wear sunscreen.” Thank you, #wellness.

Of course, taking your results in stride can be easier said than done, especially if you’re already tired of having gray hair.

“It’s called confirmation bias: we look for confirmation of what we already suspect,” adds Hafeez. “The reality is that most of us are going to age like our parents age: that photo doesn’t really show anything. That filter will only capture what you put in front of the camera at that moment.”

The psychological impact of AI filters

Our obsession with improving our appearance isn’t exactly new or novel, but social media has taken things to another level. According to the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, 72 percent of facial plastic surgeons say there has been an increase in requests for cosmetic procedures due to patients becoming more aware of their appearance on social media. In recent years, there has been a boom in “treatments that make people look better in selfies.” Additionally, the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic opened the floodgates to the Zoom fatigue that comes along with staring in the face all day at remote work meetings. Since then, research has emerged highlighting the negative mental health impacts of seeing oneself on screen so frequently, with plastic surgeons calling this phenomenon a “major factor contributing to patients’ desire to seek (cosmetic) treatment.”

“It taps into our insecurities about society rejecting us, or our spouses or partners rejecting us. We are an age-obsessed society.” – Sanam Hafeez, PsyD

Unsurprisingly, the introduction of smart filters that can bend, twist, lift, and drag our faces into dizzyingly real versions of ourselves has exacerbated things even more. According to Hafeez, these face-distorting filters aren’t exactly benign, especially when they highlight our deepest insecurities and fears.

“The aging filter even hit me It’s kind of hard,” Hafeez said. “Not only does it highlight all the things you don’t like about yourself anymore, but it’s also a skewed picture of what you’re going to look like.”

AI filters that beautify, rather than worsen, the user’s appearance aren’t much better for our psyche, says Hafeez. Like the ‘Aged’ filter, TikTok’s ‘Bold Glamour’ filter made waves for using AI to enhance the user’s appearance through meticulously placed beauty settings. The result left many users wanting to look like their Bold Glamor version. This desire to look “perfect,” says Hafeez, is especially evident among young women.

“These filters distort their idea of ​​what is attractive, what is normal, what is natural, to the point where they don’t like their natural faces,” says Hafeez. “Without a filter, they just don’t like themselves.”

While most of us understand that we’re seeing an altered version of ourselves through a screen and not in real life, the psychological toll of wanting to see ourselves a certain way still affects us anyway. Labeling social media filters as harmless, says Hafeez, dismisses the internal conflicts of the people they negatively affect.

“I think filters have been incredibly damaging to our society in general, as nice and fun as they are,” adds Hafeez. “If you’re prone to depression, if you’re prone to low self-esteem, if you’re prone to body dysmorphia, or if you’re afraid of aging the way you are, then no, it’s No harmless. In fact, it can do a lot of damage.”

In patriarchal societies like ours, youth and beauty are held in the highest regard. The ‘Aged’ filter, then, goes beyond the superficial, says Hafeez. We are not only concerned about gray hair or crow’s feet; we worry about losing our social value.

“I think it taps into our insecurities about society rejecting us, or our spouses or partners rejecting us,” says Hafeez. “We are an age-obsessed society.”

We are all going to get old. So what?

If you find yourself particularly disturbed by TikTok’s age filter, Safeez recommends taking a step back on social media. Trends come and go, and in a few short weeks, a new filter will outperform its FYP. Setting personal limits on how much time you spend on social media can also help.

“People think you have to do a detox,” Hafeez says, “but you don’t have to quit forever. Limit it, like everything else in your life.”

While we may dread the day when double chins find a permanent home on our faces, it’s important to remember that aging is a gift (Amy Poehler gets it). Wrinkles, bags, and lines are evidence of a life well lived: a life spent laughing, crying, and smiling, all of which have far more value in real life than on screen.

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