People Are Split Over This Smart Phone Feature That's Supposed to Be a Benefit

June 30th 2016

Almie Rose

Our passion for selfies doesn't appear to be fading any time soon.

So naturally when author and health coach Mel Wells got a new Samsung phone, she snapped a selfie. But then she noticed something that troubled her: the photo she took was automatically airbrushed to remove her freckles and make her skin appear smooth.

"Thanks Samsung for the vote of confidence"

Wells posted the side-by-side selfies: one with the automatically applied beauty filter, and one without, to point out what was so upsetting about the feature. She wrote this on Instagram:

"Wow Samsung. When you get a brand new phone and go to take a selfie and realise that the default setting on the front camera is automatically on 'Beauty level 8' which evidently means: seriously airbrushed face. This means everyone who gets a new Samsung phone and flicks the front camera on is automatically being told 'Hi, we're Samsung and we think you look way better when we automatically airbrush your selfies for you, x 8!!' Thanks @samsungmobile for the vote of confidence, I think I'll keep my freckles and imperfections since this is how I look in 3D and this is how all my friends see me in real life. I hope young girls are buying iPhones instead of Samsungs. (Wait, do iPhones do this too?) To clarify - no apps here - this is Samsung's DEFAULT FRONT CAMERA SETTING."

This Samsung "beauty face" filter feature has been around (in America) for at least two years now.

On Samsung's U.K. site, the explanation of the filter is clear: "You can correct facial imperfections automatically when taking portrait pictures." This is the default setting and has Wells upset. She's not alone. When staffers at Cosmopolitan tried the feature, they were not impressed. Comments ranged from "I look like an alien" to "This should be illegal. I don't even look like a real person!"

Many who see Wells' selfies agree that the airbrush filter is disappointing and sends a poor message about self-esteem and body image.

samsung comments

samsung comments

samsung beauty filter comments

samsung beauty filter

samsung beauty filter comments

But not everyone sees it that way.

Wells' selfies attracted a lot of comments, and some of those comments don't understand her frustration. People are asking why Wells doesn't just turn off the feature/adjust the level of the filter, or how this feature is any different from wearing makeup.

samsung beauty filter

samsung beauty filter comments

samsung beauty filter comments

Wells decided to address these opinions.

She posted her selfies on Instagram a second time to address the comments arguing her point.

"For those people saying 'What's the problem, just turn it off,' that wasn't the point I was making. Of course you can turn the setting off/on as you please. The point I was making is that when you first buy a brand new handset, this setting is already automatically applied to the front camera and to beauty level 8. So already assuming the consumer wants to be airbrushed.

I wanted to raise this point as I think it's one thing for us the consumer to decide to edit our photo after its been taken, but it's another thing for the manufacturer to do it for us before we've even taken the shot. The more we are told that we are supposed to look flawless, the more unhappy we will feel in our own skin - because none of us are flawless! On the contrary - it is our imperfections that make us most beautiful. [...]"

So what's the big deal?

Here's Wells' point: Women have to put up with a daily and constant barrage of marketing that tells them how they need to be more beautiful every single day, and it's disheartening that when they try to take a selfie to make themselves feel better, the image they see is an automatically airbrushed one, just like the advertising they try to avoid. And at the same time, they're told to embrace their "flaws" and to be themselves. It's a confusing and frustrating message.

"We all use filters and want to look our best," Wells admits, "and this is not a rant about never editing photos because we've all done it — just remember when you're scrolling that usually what you're seeing is just an orchestrated and edited snapshot into someone's Instalife."