You love the satisfaction of getting a “perfect” selfie. But can that quest go too far? Well, yes, say researchers.
Background: Before everyone had access to photographic filters that remove every slight blemish, airbrushed photographs of celebrities were held up as the ideal when people consulted a cosmetic surgeon.
Now: With the rise of “selfies” taken through filter-enabled camera apps, such as Snapchat and Facetune, cosmetic surgeons report that many prospective patients are asking to be made to look like the heavily filtered images they post of themselves on social-media platforms.
Whether the person is seeking a thinner nose, fuller lips or bigger eyes, the new phenomenon has been dubbed “Snapchat dysmorphia” after one of the popular smartphone apps that allows users to create flawless selfies.
Sobering finding: In 2017, 55% of facial plastic surgeons reported that patients had requested surgery to improve their selfie appearances, according to an annual survey conducted by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery. That compares with 42% who were seeking surgery to improve their selfies in 2015. Overall, facial plastic surgeons are performing 25% more operations that they did just five years ago, with many more of their patients younger than age 30.
Some experts are concerned that this fascination with filtered images may contribute to poor self-esteem or even trigger body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). This is a serious psychiatric condition characterized by excessive preoccupation with perceived defects in appearance that actually are miniscule or nonexistent. People with BDD seek and frequently undergo cosmetic surgery—and then are typically dissatisfied with the results of their operations.
To be clear, not everyone who seeks selfie perfection has BDD. However, in an opinion piece published in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery, the authors state: “This is an alarming trend because those filtered selfies often present an unattainable look and are blurring the line of reality and fantasy for these patients.”
Adolescent girls are at particularly high risk for body dissatisfaction. When 101 seventh-grade girls were surveyed, those who regularly shared self-images on social media reported significantly higher rates of body dissatisfaction and internalization of the “thin ideal” than girls who didn’t share such photos of themselves, according to a study published in International Journal of Eating Disorders.
Bottom line: If you’re more pleased with your filtered photos than images that more closely portray real life, remember that filter-enabled beauty is only on the surface…and that your imperfections—as slight or extreme as they are—are what make you unique.