Technology is having a profound impact on our self-perception. More and more young people, and especially teenagers, use filters daily to “beautify” or “distort” their faces and body appearance. These filters are present in social network applications such as Snapchat, Instagram and TikTok, allowing it very easily to transform people’s image and to represent themselves with a false “self”, another distorted image that does not correspond to the real self.
Filters in photographic applications allow automated photo editing through artificial intelligence and vision algorithms that can identify facial aspects and change them in many ways. For example, removing a flat or long nose, lightening the skin tone, highlighting, or enlarging the eyebrows, have a thinner figure, and much more. At the other extreme, they can also “distort” the image to disfigure it in a cartoonish or grotesque way. Photographic beauty filter algorithms are affecting the way we see ourselves, especially among young people.
In a not distant future, the distortion of the personal image and the eventual replacement of our self-image will be a reality as technology goes more sophisticated. Robotics and biotechnology bring us closer to the possibilities of having “augmented” and “better” bodies. There are various movie films that illustrate and portray these possibilities, such as Surrogates (2009), where in the future people will have “robotic” substitutes or “surrogates” that are mechanical representations of themselves but “ideal”, “young”, more “attractive”, and physically perfect.
Psychologically, all people experience to a lesser or greater degree a distortion of our personal image, and we all experience cognitive distortions, which are the thoughts that cause us to perceive reality in an inappropriate way. This is not so bad, if it does not exceed certain limits. Psychologically speaking, the concept of the Ego is a psychic instance described by Freud, a concept that has been expanded and refined over the time by many psychologists. For example, Winnicott describes the false “self” (means of not being oneself) as a distortion of the personality that consists in developing an illusory existence from childhood to protect, through a defensive organization, the true “self”.
Although the distortion of our image has always existed and will exist forever as an intrinsic part of our personality in all human beings, the challenge today lies in the potential and capabilities of technology to amplify the distortion of our image. That is why it is very necessary to establish a healthy balance in the use of technology to maintain our mental health.
Photo by Rodrigo Acuña for Psycognet