Just when we thought there were no more aspects of our appearance left for us to feel insecure about, a new trend arrives on TikTok to prove to us that we are, in fact, very much mistaken. The trend in question uses the ‘Inverted’ filter, which shows you a flipped impression of your face - ie what everyone else sees when they look at you, the opposite of what you see reflected back at you in the mirror.
One response to this amongst the millions of users who have shared the effect on their accounts, is absolute horror. ‘Since being told the inverted filter on tik tok is how people really see you I can’t stop looking at it. Like I’m genuinely disturbed at how much worse I look to other people than I already thought I did anyway why isn’t my face symmetrical… actually bothers me [sic],’ said one user. ‘Just stared at myself with the inverted filter on for too long now I’m gonna go cry [sic],’ said another. A third person wrote: ‘Having a meltdown because I tried the Inverted Filter for the first time.’
Not everyone is horrified: if you have a symmetrical face it barely shows a difference when you switch the effect on and off. And so the Inverted filter has a become a lowkey way for people with perfectly symmetrical faces to 'prove' their beauty.
The symmetrical face trend isn't actually anything new. Though of course asymmetrical faces are every bit as beautiful as symmetrical ones, over the years scientific research has suggested that we may inherently find symmetrical faces more attractive than asymmetrical ones for evolutionary reasons. According to a report by Psychology Today, ‘The dominant scientific explanation for the attractiveness of facial symmetry is sometimes called “Evolutionary Advantage Theory.” If the grand choreography of developmental gene expression is perfectly executed, the result is perfect symmetry...Facial symmetry is universally associated with beauty and attractiveness in both sexes and in sexual and non-sexual contexts. The most well-supported theory for this is that our species has evolved to recognize symmetry, if unconsciously, as a proxy for good genes and physical health.’ Kate Moss has long been described as having the 'perfect' face because of its proportions and symmetry and she's, you know, one of the most successful supermodels in existence.
When I tried the Inverted filter myself today, I was genuinely surprised by my horrified reaction to my own face. How had I never realised that one of my eyes and eyebrows was so much lower than the other? Why did my face slant so badly? How has anyone been able to look at me like this?! I vowed never to use it again, and aged 37 there are things way higher up on my list of concerns about my appearance than my facial symmetry. On a broader level I do worry that this will become yet another source of insecurity, particularly for younger TikTok users, another impossible beauty standard that social media has set.
While the Inverted filter doesn’t actually alter your appearance, the trend could spark the idea that there might be things you'd like to change if you don't appear symmetrical 'enough'. Beauty filters have been a big topic of debate in the past year, with make up artist Sasha Louise Pallari beginning the #FilterDrop movement, urging users to show their real, unfiltered skin on social media. The ‘Filter vs Reality’ filter on Instagram, which lets you slide between your natural appearance and a beautified filter, has been used in the last couple of weeks to highlight the very real danger of using social media filters to virtually alter your appearance. Jameela Jamil posted a video of herself using it with the caption: ‘Teen cosmetic surgery is at an all time high. Plastic surgeons say that kids, and now many adults, bring in these filtered pictures of themselves and ask to be made to look like them.’ She added: 'I get the desire to use them. But they hurt people who look at them, and they hurt the people who use them, because it’s hard to accept your real face in the mirror after these digitally face and body altering versions of you have become your every day norm.’