Week 4: To Filter or Not to Filter, That is the Question

I found Rettberg’s multi-faceted definition of ‘filter’ to be extremely intriguing and dynamic. On the surface, our society sees filters as a kind of ‘net’ to capture impurities. In technology, a filter is used in a very similar way to metaphorically remove search content that is irrelevant depending upon the specific keywords and phrases searched. In an exclusively social media reference, a filter is a tool used to add or subtract certain light colorations to your images to enhance the appeal of user photos. Despite the abundance of valid definitions for this term, I find the most important definition to be related to a sociotechnical aspect of our societies. Cultural filters are quite possibly the most important filters to recognize, because they help determine the norms and customs of a society. In turn, abiding by these rules helps users gain more likes, followers and favorites. For example, in my community of UCLA students, we find it out-of-the-norm to post Instagrams more than once every few days. The individuals who decide to break this social norm are seen as undesirable or like-hungry.

Instagram filters have been steadily declining in popularity as they have became too obvious and recognizable to users. In a Business Insider article that was posted at the beginning of the year, it reported that the new social norm is to not apply filters to images because it was the ‘uncool’ thing to do. Further analysis on this idea, combined with my experience and social participation in this group of millennials reveals that adding filters can seem like the user is trying too hard to fit in by making their photo as worthy to their followers as possible. From this, an emerging normality in the social media world is the use of the hashtag #nofilter and VSCO Cam. Despite the the dated popularity of using filters to enhance images, many millennials take pride in their budding photography skills and make it known to their followers that their image wasn’t enhanced with a filter, to show the natural beauty of the image. Another emerging technology is the VSCO Cam app. This app uses lighter filter options to add an old fashion filmy quality to photos to make it seem like the user isn’t overdoing it with lights and coloring additions, as seen below.



4 thoughts on “Week 4: To Filter or Not to Filter, That is the Question

  1. William Lam

    Your argument about cultural filters is so true. I always try to space my posting activity to at least 2 or 3 days apart, haha. And actually, surprisingly, there are some “popular” millennial IG users that still use IG’s filters, and still use Whitagram (which is also a dying trend among millennial IG users) such as all the kids on the show #Rich Kids of Beverly Hills (which I highly don’t recommend watching).

    Funny thing, I actually remember reading that article and remember it being super brief. It’s kind of disappointing that it’s so short, because I feel like it would have opened up an interesting conversation about the implications of not using a filter. I just wonder how do these sort of norms arise in the first place? Who initiated the movement that made IG filters and Whitagram uncool?

    Furthermore, IG is actually catching on that their filters are uncool, so if you look at their newest filters, they’re a lot more subtle, and are actually not half bad; even their old filters have been tuned down for a more subtle effect.

  2. christineholland

    I had no idea that Instagram filter’s were becoming “uncool” according to the unwritten rules of social media. For my project, I am actually studying high school girls on Instagram, so I took a look at their profiles with this in mind to see if they followed this trend. Out of the 15 girls I am following so far, mostly all of them still seem to use filters in their photos. They aren’t over the top, except when they put a post in black and white, but they are noticeable nonetheless. Obviously this is only a very small group of Instagram users, but the fact that all of these teens don’t strictly follow this social rule makes me wonder how much authority it actually has. And what demographic of users perpetuate these social rules in the first place?

  3. emdesur

    I am not that up to date on Instagram trends, but I think it is interesting that filters are so associated with Instagram. It seems that if people aren’t using one of the specific filters on Instagram it is not considered filtered. All of the other apps for editing pictures also apply filters, but seem less filtered because we are so familiar with Instagram filters.

  4. frcarbonellm

    I find it so crazy I keep hearing more and more against using filters on Instagram. Before this week I would have assumed that using a filter was just expected. Truly mind boggling to find the reality to the exact opposite. I had mentioned in my post about how Instagram arose a tool with purpose and intent of simple photo editing on smart phones. Now, the reason the app was developed in the first place appears to have lack of a meaning amongst the “up and coming” crowds.
    The term social norm, I wonder if its truly appropriate to use it in this context yet. Like I said before, I haven’t heard of this non filter use until just this week. It was further proved to me my younger sister and my boyfriends teenage niece. It was bizarre really, it made me old.
    I don’t know if I would use Instagram if it didn’t have filters, I guess it is now officially a social media outlet not a photography app. I wonder if this all changed when Facebook bought the app. Did they expect this to happen? I never would have.
    I am curious now as to researching more unspoken Instagram rules.
    Thanks for sharing,
    – Felipe Carbonell

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