Is It Time To Drop The Filters & Have "The Selfie Talk"?

How to have a healthier relationship with selfies, self esteem and social media

Photo / Supplied.

It’s been dubbed the era of ‘Zoom face’ — a time where life has become increasingly more digital, with virtual meetings, schooling and everything in between shifting online. But has spending more time connecting with others online made us more disconnected from our real appearance than ever before?

Digital distortion is threatening the self-esteem of young people today — propelled forward by the likes of TikTok, Instagram and SnapChat and the widespread use of filters and retouching apps.

A recent global study conducted by Dove in partnership with Edelman Data & Intelligence revealed that 50 per cent of New Zealand girls aged 10-17 felt apprehensive about the content they shared on social media, and considered the reactions of their peers before sharing a photo.

Research revealed that 56 per cent of survey participants in New Zealand would take multiple photos in order to capture the “perfect” selfie and that three out of four New Zealand girls have used a filter to alter their appearance by the time they turn 13. The average time spent on social media by New Zealand girls in this age range is 101 minutes per day, which surpasses Australian girls’ 88 minutes.


  • The top three body parts or features that New Zealand girls try to hide, or change are their hair, face and lips
  • New Zealand girls spend a total of 29 minutes a day on YouTube, 25 minutes on Instagram, 23 minutes on TikTok, 21 minutes on Facebook and 19 minutes on SnapChat
  • 40 per cent have done their hair just to take a selfie
  • 41 per cent feel less beautiful after seeing photos of their friends on social media
  • 58 per cent say filters have become part of everyday life
  • 52 per cent would prefer it if no-one could edit their photos

Since 2004, Dove has set wheels in motion to restore self-confidence in women of all ages with its Dove Self Esteem Project, but in 2022 the focus is shifting towards the protection and empowerment of young women to discover their real-life, unfiltered beauty with the aptly-titled ‘Reverse Selfie’. The powerful video, shared to YouTube and playing on New Zealand television, explores the pressures linked to social media and how it negatively impacts young girls’ self-esteem.

Dove’s ‘Reverse Selfie / Have The Talk’ video depicts how a young girl’s retouched look is played in reverse to show how wildly different her before and after is. One YouTube user commented: “As a mother of a 12-year-old, who looks very much like this girl, I cried. The pressure on young girls to look a certain way is so scary and unrealistic.”

The viral campaign video has amassed almost one million views on YouTube and captured the attention of internationally-acclaimed popstar and body positivity activist Lizzo, who has since signed on with Dove as its newest, global partner.

The campaign also resonated with local Dove ambassador Toni Street. “While the odd filter can be lots of fun, constant consumption of social media and the digital distortion available these days is clearly having a lasting negative effect on the self-esteem and body confidence of our young people,” she says. “I want to make sure I have the knowledge and tools to help my kids through these challenges. I hate the thought of our young people being consumed by the way they think they need to look.”

Now, Dove is shifting the narrative on social media — lifting the veil on what’s deemed as “real” and encouraging parents and teachers to have “The Selfie Talk” by engaging in conversations with tweens and teens about navigating the digital age with The Dove Confidence Kit, which is available via the Dove website.

According to Professor Phillippa Diedrichs, creator of the Confidence Kit and research psychologist at the Centre of Appearance Research at the University of West England, the perpetual consumption of social media can contribute towards an individual’s negative perception of their body, and harshly impact their mood and self-esteem. “Oftentimes, this can be attributed to users spending significant amounts of time posting selfies, using editing apps and filters to alter their appearance, comparing themselves to others, and seeking validation through comments and likes,” she says. “It is therefore imperative that we help young people to develop the skills to navigate social media in a healthy and productive way.”

The Dove Confidence Kit unpacks important topics that have an impact on young people’s self-esteem and body confidence, ranging from social media, peer and cultural pressures, through to teasing and bullying about appearance. Every article and activity included in the guide helps identify self-esteem issues you feel may be affecting your child or a child you care about, along with action checklists to help incite positive changes or initiate conversations to tackle issues head-on. You can even search for specific topics in a particular age range by using the search filters provided.

Having “The Selfie Talk” is a good place to start — empowering young people to think critically about the images they’re seeing on screens, and providing them with the right tools they need to build self-esteem, confidence and wellbeing.


  • Help them understand digital distortion by explaining the techniques and tools many influencers or celebrities use to alter their selfies to create the “perfect Instagram shot”.
  • Explain how Instagram is a highlight reel to help them avoid any negative self-talk or comparison.
  • Reframe how they use social media — thinking of it as a way of connecting with others online and encouraging them to curate a positive feed by unfollowing any accounts that don’t make them feel good about themselves.
  • Empower them to create real content that doesn’t focus solely on appearance, and instead highlights their interests or activities they enjoy.
  • Teach them how to spot ads over genuine opinions by familiarising them with social media hashtags like #ad or #gifted.
  • Develop a game-plan together if cyber-bullying arises so they are better able to cope.
  • Take a break from screen time by setting limits on apps and having them engage in activities they enjoy away from their tablet, laptop or phone.

Discover and download Dove’s resources:


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