Photo by Apostolos Vamvouras on Unsplash

Defining the self with filters

There are so many filters to use on Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. There are those that will have you looking like every other Instagram model, there are those that are hilarious memes and there are now those filters that will tell you who you are. They will tell you what kind of Pokémon you are. They will tell you which Sailor Moon, Sex Education or Skam character you are. They will tell you fortunes about your future. They will tell you who you look like. They will rate how attractive you are. There are so many, I could write an entire article on the list, but that’s not the point of this. Many of us are on this journey in life to achieve self-discovery and the internet provides the perfect opportunity to try and do that. As the year began, there was a wide release of filters on Instagram that decide who we are and what we support, there is even one for US Presidential Candidates, but I think it just tells everyone that they support Bernie Sanders because I haven’t seen anyone get a different result. These filters have gone viral because they can only be found through word-of-mouth, that is to say, through the stories of friends and people you follow who are using the filter. These filters demonstrate the fundamental human desire to figure out who you are and they show who you are to the world, too. 

 

These filters are a natural step in our quest for self-discovery. Users relentlessly fill out quizzes on BuzzFeed to learn which of the Sprouse brothers you will marry. There are those who follow those astrological readings and sites as a means of identifying yourself through seemingly specific characteristics. You have probably completed a personality test on 16Personalities, too. The randomised filters are another way in which we can determine what our personality is like. 

 

How does it work? Users will find the filter from one of the friends, record a video, and wait for this slot-machine filter to decide what character, as an example, you are. It is all random, nothing you can say or do will determine the result, you get what you’re given. If you’re me, you’ll probably be upset that you didn’t get Eric or Lily from Sex Education, because there is no way I am an Otis. The reaction is just as important as the result you are given. You can find the “What Pokémon Are You?” filter through @hughesp1’s account, the “Which Disney Character Are You?” filter through @arnopartissimo’s account and “What Sailor Moon Character Are You?” through @popkapirozhka. I anticipate my friends’ reactions to whichever result they are given when using all of the decision filters. I know what you’re thinking, this trend is rather futile and childish, but it’s oddly comforting to us all. You are given the option to discover yourself, without knowing what is coming around the corner, because you can never anticipate what result you’ll get.

 

You can counter my argument by suggesting that these filters were designed to generate content for our friends and followers. However, there is a psychological element to these mindless filters that must be acknowledged, and that is the fact that we all need to identify ourselves by instinct. There are so many aspects of our lives that have been pre-determined for us, although creating our identities and personalities isn’t, and these filters show us and others who we believed ourselves to be. Depending on the outcome, you can either be satisfied or annoyed with the result, and you are attaching yourself to different groups through tribalism. These filters give you a result and you can compare those traits and results to how you identify yourself. You can communicate with others through your results, especially with those who share the same results as yourself, even if these are not the results that we want. There is a sense of belonging when we find our results. 

 

Yes, these filters are created for amusement, they also determine very little about who we are in terms of our behaviour, characteristics and identity. Despite this, they let your followers know how you identify yourself, and they help you discover your true self through your boredom. These filters are not disappearing any time soon, so let’s enjoy our reactions to our randomised results, for they help us fulfill that desire to understand and express who we are. 

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