On the surface, this was a weird and temporary issue that affected some users and not others. But it also forcibly changed the appearance of people, a significant issue for an app used by about 100 million people in the United States. So I also sent the video to Amy Niu, a PhD student at the University of Wisconsin who studies the psychological impact of beauty filters. She pointed out that in China, and other places, some apps add a subtle beauty filter by default. When Niu uses apps like WeChat, she can only really tell that a filter is in place by comparing a photo of herself using her camera with the image produced in the app.

A few months ago, she said, she downloaded the Chinese version of TikTok, called Douyin. “When I turned off the beauty mode and the filters, I can still see a fit on my face,” she said.

Having beauty filters in an app isn’t necessarily a bad thing, Niu said, but app designers have a responsibility to consider how these filters will be used and how they will change the people who use them. Even though this was a temporary bug, it could impact the way people see themselves.

“People’s internalization of beauty standards, their own body image, or whether they will intensify their concern for appearance,” are all considerations, Niu said.

For Dawn, the weird facial effect was just one more thing to add to the list of frustrations with TikTok: “It’s very reminiscent of a relationship with a narcissist, because they bombard you with love for a minute.” , they give you all these followers and all this attention and it feels good, ”they said. “And then, for some reason, they’re … they’re just like we’re cutting you off.” “

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