Is this going to be an unreal problem? TikTok has a new filter called “Bold Glamour” that can really change your face in a not-so-real manner that actually looks very real. Like really real. The Bold Glamour filter uses artificial intelligence, known affectionately as AI, to assess your face and then completely remold it so that you can look on TikTok like you’ve gotten a cosmetic makeover along with some plastic surgery. And here’s the big difference between this Bold Glamour filter and your standard run-of-the-mill video filters, it can be really difficult to tell that you are even using a filter, as @emilyciambella pointed out in the following TikTok video:
She also posted, “This is getting a little ridiculous #boldglam #filter #makeup #nofilter #wtf #fyp #stop #beautiful #gonatural.”
And TikToker @notsophiesilva showed this not-so-cheeky video of her using the filter to change the shape of her cheeks:
In a note accompanying the video, she wrote, “Okay I know it’s subtle but I’m super excited lol. I loved my cheeks before too so I’m slightly conflicted.”
Welcome to the new reality of unreality. Yeah, the Bold Glamour filter is quite a step or perhaps several steps up from those other video filters that bedazzle the heck out of your face, distort your face, make you look like you’ve had way too much orange spray tan, or give you mouse ears. It’s already quite difficult to distinguish what’s fake on social media platforms and in entertainment in general. Since the turn of the century, people have been using a variety of filters, photo and video editors, special effects, and other techniques as if they were hot sauce on celery. With the Bold Glamour filter, it will be even more difficult to tell what’s real and not real about people’s appearance on TikTok. Gee, what could possibly go wrong?
Despite the expressed trepidations of some TikTokers, the interest in Bold Glamour seems to be quite real. The video filter has garnered over 400 million views since its initial release in February. That’s probably gotten ByteDance Ltd., the company that runs the TikTok platform and is based in Beijing, China, real excited. So don’t expect this filter to go away any time soon. In fact, there’s a darn good chance that more such filters will emerge on other social media platforms as well. After all, when it comes to social media companies finding ways to get people more and more hooked, it’s kind of an arms race. Or perhaps an arms and face race.
ByteDance hasn’t exactly been open about the specifics of the Bold Glamour algorithm and how it works. That’s not really surprising since many of the social media platform companies have been about as clear as Nutella soup when being asked to reveal the algorithms that they use.
Regardless, you can probably surmise how the Bold Glamour algorithm works in general. Once you show your lovely face to TikTok, the algorithm presumably takes a variety of measurements and then compares these measurements with a whole lot of other faces in some kind of database. Oh, and by the way, once the algorithm measures your face, take a wild guess as to what image may be added to this database as well. The comparisons of your face with other images in the database can, in turn, determine how the algorithm will adjust the image of your face in different ways such as re-shaping your jaw, brightening your eyes, and smoothing out or changing the tone of your skin.
These adjustments seem to be very precise too. Your Bold Glamour re-made image doesn’t appear to move in awkward ways or fail to keep up when you move your head quickly. You don’t seem to end up losing face when you touch yourself either. Let’s re-phrase that. When you touch your face, bits of your face don’t drop away. And the filter doesn’t make you look like you belong in a cartoon or you’ve gotten way too much plastic surgery. You can, in fact, look quite real except that you’re not. Or rather it’s not. It’s not your real face.
Initially, this Bold Glamour filter can seem like fun for the whole family so to speak. Such a filter can democratize and give everyone access to all those make-up artists, plastic surgeons, and special effects that celebrities, advertisers, and studios have used for years. Why not undergo plastic surgery without all that anesthesia, knife and chisel in your face, and pain stuff? Why not give yourself a makeover without having to purchase all those cosmetics? Why not treat your face like a pizza and put whatever you want on it, right?
At the same time, the Bold Glamour filter and any such ones that subsequently emerge could have real consequences in different ways. Studies have already shown social media use to be associated with self-image problems. For example, a study published in Body Image in 2015 found, in the words of the authors of the study, that “young women who spend more time on Facebook may feel more concerned about their body because they compare their appearance to others (especially to peers) on Facebook.” And a study published by the American Psychological Association showed that “Teens and young adults who reduced their social media use by 50% for just a few weeks saw significant improvement in how they felt about both their weight and their overall appearance compared with peers who maintained consistent levels of social media use.”
The question is whether such a new filter could put such self-image problems on steroids. When everyone around you looks like they’ve just stepped off a Hollywood movie set, it could create super unrealistic expectations for you and your face. Those so-called “imperfections” on your face that make you human could start standing out like a sore thumb. Or a sore nose. Or a sore eye. Or a sore, well, you get the picture.
Speaking of Hollywood, one of the pressures that star actors have to face is maintaining certain images to the public that may not necessarily match who they really are behind closed doors. That, of course, is the price of fame and fortune. Alas, these days with the pervasiveness of social media, many people on such platforms may feel compelled to do the same, only without all that fame and fortune stuff. That’s what many on social media may feel compelled to do these days. And once you’ve presented your face to others via the Bold Glamour filter, how much pressure might there be to maintain that image?
Plus, looks are extremely subjective. They are based on whatever standards are being spread by others around you at the time. Without knowing the details of the algorithm, it’s hard to know what kind of beauty standards may be pushed upon users.
Moreover, could such a filter further blur the lines of reality? Will you be able to tell who’s the real you and who else is real? Recall the movies Total Recall, The Matrix, and The Truman Show? Yeah, messing with someone’s reality can be quite a mind bleep.
All that being said, expect to see more and more filters and algorithms like the “Bold Glamour” one in the coming future. It’s unlikely that social media companies or the entertainment industry will say, “Hmm, let’s pass up big money making opportunities this time.” The question then is what can be done to more proactively deal with and mitigate the mental and emotional health consequences that may arise? What can be done to help everyone realize that image is not everything, looks are subjective, and what’s on social media often isn’t really real? Our society was already blindsided by the first and second waves of social media and trying to deal with the consequences. The face of social media continues to rapidly change. Expect many of the faces on social media to keep changing as well.