A girls sits in a dark room playing with photo filters of her face on a phone.

Social Media Filters and Thyroid Eye Disease

Let’s talk social media filters and thyroid eye disease.

I am very active on social media as an advocate within the autoimmune disease community, but ever since I was diagnosed with thyroid eye disease (TED) photos and videos have been difficult and emotional for me. It was not that I felt like I needed to look Instagram-perfect - I just wanted to look and feel like myself, but I did not. Instead, all I saw was a stranger in deep pain, and it hurt. It simply was not worth the emotional distress, so I stopped posting photos and videos of myself.

A positive experience with social media filters and TED

Then social media filters began to gain popularity. I tried a few out. "Oh, this is cool!" I said of one that featured perfect eye makeup that somehow seemed to tone down my visible TED symptoms. I felt more relaxed, pressed record, and posted my first video in several months. It was a small thing, but I enjoyed that taste of normalcy.

In a way, this filter felt like a tool, similar to how I use sunglasses in photos. I am never hiding behind sunglasses. Instead, I am simply taking the stress and worry about my eyes out of the equation. If filters could help me feel a little more at peace and make navigating social media a little easier, hey that is fine with me.

Different emotions with different filters

Since that time, many other filters have emerged. A recent filter that immediately went viral attempted to show users what they may have looked like as a teenager. I had plenty of friends who tried it exclaiming, "OMG I looked nothing like this - who is this person??" Of course, this is a filter, not a time machine.

But I saw other app users have very visceral and emotional reactions to seeing versions of their younger selves. If you are included in that group and enjoyed the filter - good, I am glad that you experienced a meaningful moment! I watched a particularly touching video of someone who finally saw the teenager they had always wanted to be, and I cried happy tears for them.

For myself, I knew exactly what would happen when I turned on the filter. Thanks to TED, my face has changed in many ways, and I no longer look like my old self. Even after multiple surgeries, I do not look exactly like the old me - I am someone new.

"But everyone’s face changes over time," I recall a friend saying. Yes, everyone ages, but that is completely different from the facial disfigurement that TED causes. I knew that once the filter came on, I would not see the old me I remember from high school photos. I would see a younger version of the new me.

Still, I was curious. It is just a filter, right? There she was, a stranger, just as I predicted. Who was she? Honestly, I almost laughed because initially, I thought she looked like a Whoville child from How The Grinch Stole Christmas. But there she was, and I felt a small unexpected pang in my heart.

Another reminder of thyroid eye disease

Here’s the thing - yes, this is just a social media filter. I am not upset about a filter or aging. It was just another moment of remembering that I will never look like the old me again. It was another moment of recalling what thyroid eye disease has stolen from me and that this condition will always be a part of my identity. I am continuously working on coming to terms with all this. Sometimes little moments remind us of monumental things.

So if you have had similar little moments - you are not alone.

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