U.S. based advertising agency Bray & Co., founded by Aussie expat Peter Bray, has launched a campaign called Dear Mark, a grassroots initiative asking the public and the advertising industry to help pressure Mark Zuckerberg to label filtered photos across Instagram and Facebook with #filteredimage to control the negative effects of social media on youth mental health.
Elements of the campaign include Instagram account @thedearmarkproject, a mental health podcast including guest healthcare professionals, and multiple other assets that can be shared online.
Much has been said about the negative effect social media is having on tweens and teens, from peer bullying to unrealistic lifestyles. Images of perfect-looking “influencers” take their toll when projecting unrealistic beauty standards, and Dear Mark aims to remind viewers when those casual-looking photos have gotten a filter assist.
A 2021 survey of 200 teens and young adults ages 13 to 21 from ParentsTogether found that 61% of respondents reported that filters contributed to them having negative thoughts about their appearance.
The embedded filters within Instagram in particular, potentially making flattering changes to lighting and color, or enhancing one’s looks by whitening teeth or zapping zits, create unrealistic expectations. Now, with more filters than ever, they can also give the illusion of perfection by performing a virtual version of cosmetic surgery and shaving off pounds, boosting one’s lips or resizing a nose.
Says Peter Bray, founder and ECD of Bray & Co: “We have ad standards and disclaimers in all media, but we are letting down the younger people by not holding Meta to the same standards when it comes to imagery. Automatically tagging images that use an Instagram filter as #filteredimage is a simple change to make, and we are calling on the advertising industry to support this initiative and hold Mark Zuckerberg in particular to account.”
The success of the project will be judged by one measure: the labeling of filtered images. So, the request is that all agencies and brands support this initiative and start using #filteredimage on their own digital campaign images.
Says Andrea Evgeniou MS, LAC, therapist and founder of Positive Regard For You: “These days, social media is a hotbed for triggers. For us to still enjoy social media’s benefits, we must all work together to make it a safer space that soothes our nervous system instead of activating it.”