Indians emerging as prolific users of filters in selfies: Google study

Indian women are enthusiastic about the ability to beautify their images and Indian men use filters to focus on the story aspect, it said.

The use of filters to enhance selfies is widespread in India and the U.S., according to a global study conducted by Google.

Unlike Germany, Indian respondents expressed low levels of concern about the impact of filters on their children’s wellbeing. And filter use for beautification purposes is highly normalised and socially accepted in South Korea, the study noted.

“More than 70% of the photos taken on an Android device use the front-facing camera, Indians are active selfie takers and sharers, and they consider filters a useful tool in enhancing their appearance and presenting their best self,” it said.

“Indian women, in particular, are enthusiastic about their ability to beautify their images, and they make use of a variety of filtering apps and editing tools to achieve a desired look.” The most popular filter apps are PicsArt and Makeup Plus; Snapchat is used by younger users (age 29 and under), it said.

“The selfie-taking and sharing is such a big part of Indian women’s lives that it affects their behaviour and even household economics: several women reported that they never wear the same dress again if they had taken a selfie in it,” it said.

“As a young women reported, ‘I told my mom, I’ll never wear this dress again because I posted a selfie in it. She said, ‘do you think money comes from the trees?’” the study said.

Indian men are also active selfie-takers and users of filters but they tend to focus more on the story aspect rather than their appearance, it said.

Indian respondents expressed low levels of concern about the impact of filters on their or their children’s wellbeing. They exhibit a relaxed attitude towards their children’s use of filters, considering it a fun activity, it said, adding that some parents are comfortable using slight beautification filters like lipstick on their child’s photo.

Indian parents were more concerned about their children’s excessive use of mobile phones or privacy and safety of smartphones rather than the use of filters, it said.

Indian respondents are sensitive to the social ramifications of over-filtering. While some levels of filtering are widely accepted (brightening background, lightening skin tone, application of makeup), major changes that alter the appearance (high cheekbones, eyebrows, hair coloru) are considered unacceptable, it said.

Respondents in India, similar to other countries, strive for a natural look in their filtered photos. However, their idea of natural is much more liberal, with some facial alterations acceptable, the study said.

The quality of phone camera is very important to Indian users: it’s the most important factor in selecting a new phone. Both men and women in India reacted very positively to having automatic beatification function on their phone’s cameras. Like respondents in other countries, they do want to have the ability to control the on and off setting, it said.

Deception through filtering is a concern for many participants in the U.S. Facetune and other apps that allow the user to manually alter photos are somewhat stigmatized among U.S. participants, it said.

In the U.S., the jury is out on the relative benefits and risks of filter use. We’ve heard arguments from strong proponents of filters, who enjoy the benefits of easy photo editing and beautification, as well as from opponents, who bemoan the loss of authenticity and normalisation of deception, it said.

German parents reported high involvement in the social media accounts of their children. They do not want their children’s pictures to be on the internet, and children must commonly ask permission to post pictures. Younger boys described very little use of filters, other than funny filters, it said.

The beauty ideals described by German respondents were similar to those in the U.S.: perfect, smooth skin, full lips, large eyes, and a tiny waist. Many German respondents expressed the preference to look natural — some decline to filter out any blemishes at all. And even among others who say they want to look better, they avoid ever looking overfiltered, it said.

Observing that filter use for beautification purposes is highly normalized and socially accepted in South Korea, the study revealed that almost all male and female participants ages 29 and younger apply beautification filters to the majority of their selfies, while older adults use filters less consistently.

The majority of South Korean participants use apps that allow them to personalise their filters, making it possible to set a default eye size, face shape, skin tone, it said.

More than 70% of photos taken on an Android device use the front-facing camera, and over 24 billion photos have been labelled as selfies in Google Photos, it said.

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