Filtered selfies and fake news

From changing your hair colour to giving yourself a pair of big dog ears, there’s loads of fun to be had with the photo filters on social media apps. But some filtered selfies might be much harder to spot.

Filters that can smoothen out skin features or even ‘thin’ someone’s body aren’t just more examples of fake news online – they can have an impact on our mental health, too.

Find out how to overcome the effects of these misleading filters with Love Island stars Olivia Bowen and Laura Anderson, who also presents her own BBC Sounds podcast.

Olivia and Laura’s tips for coping with fake selfies

1. Burst your filter bubble (of filters)

If you’ve liked and saved lots of fake selfies (even if you’re don’t know that they’re using filters), social media algorithms will remember your choices and suggest similar photos – which might be even more filtered.

Confusingly, this is called a filter bubble and it could see your social media feed full of cosmetic or ‘beauty-enhancing’ filters.

You can burst your bubble by following different accounts and liking different types of pictures so that the algorithm can learn and suggest other, more body positive posts.

2. Get some perspective

It’s hard to not be impressed by filtered pictures that look as if they’re flawless. Even if you know that these could be misleading, you still might think that this is how people look in real life.

This response is known as confirmation bias, and happens when you see things that confirm what you already believe or would like to believe.

Remind yourself of what’s real and what’s fake by limiting the amount of time you spend on social media apps. Some phones have timers that you can set for different apps to remind you to take a break.

3. Find a more relaxing feed

Remember that social media isn’t just full of filtered selfies. There’s nature and travel accounts, music and art posts, and even classic clips of animals being cute.

A recent study by the University of Leeds found that watching cute videos of animals and nature can actually reduce anxiety and trigger relaxation, so why not give it a go?

Where next?

Fake news and mental health
Five ways to spot misleading images online
Be social media smart: Is seeing believing?
Fact or Fake?