Why everyone is so sad to see their younger self

A Tik Tok filter makes people sad to see their own young faces. But what are they really nostalgic for?

Colin Horgan
5 min readMar 3, 2023

“There’s this filter on Tik Tok that makes you look young, and now Tik Tok is just full of middle-aged folks being confronted by this and trying to come to terms with — trying to understand where their life went,” the user, @memo_akten, says to the screen in a video posted on February 21 — only his second video ever. “It’s quite, quite emotional.”

The video hasn’t gone viral — on Tik Tok, anyway. But on Twitter, it’s been seen 8,500,000 times. Akten, a “multi-disciplinary artist, musician, researcher, and computer scientist,” posted the video atop a long thread of other Tik Tok videos like his. Each one is a split screen — one frame featuring the Tik Tok user as they are today, and the other showing a real-time filtered image of their face, programmed to make them look like a teenager.

“I turned this filter on, I’m crying because I haven’t seen myself like this in years,” one woman whispers to the camera. “And I was so pretty, we were so pretty. I was pretty when I was younger. I was mean to her, though, I didn’t treat her right.”

“I think my feelings are about to get hurt. Let’s do this teenage filter,” another…