We all love a good filter. Our eyes get bigger, skin clearer and maybe a cute set of bunny ears appears on our head. But what happens when someone likes the way they look with a filter too much?
Plastic surgeons have noticed a rising trend of people who bring in their own edited selfies to demonstrate what they want to look like post-surgery. Traditionally, patients attend consultations with examples of how they want their undesired traits changed–most notably using celebrities as examples. Angelina Jolie’s lips or cheekbones were popular examples–until now. Digitally doctored photos of the patients themselves are currently what many want to look like. This trend, according to an article recently published in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery by researchers from Boston University Scool of Medicine’s Department of Dermatology, is known as ‘Snapchat dysmorphia’ and is causing high levels of concern across the medical community.
‘Snapchat dysmorphia’ displays negative effects on self-esteem and a strong potential to trigger body dysmorphic disorder, a mental illness classified on the obsessive-compulsive spectrum. Body dysmorphic disorder or BDD causes people to be “extremely preoccupied with a perceived flaw in appearance that to others can’t be seen or appears minor,” according to the Mayo Clinic. People who have BDD tend to obsess over their appearance to an unhealthy manner, leading it to intrude on their life and health.
However, this potentially damaging photo-editing trend extends beyond Snapchat as apps such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and VSCO allow and encourage users to edit their photos prior to uploading. Moreover, Facetune provides Photoshop-like effects for users for only $3.99. Through this app, users are able to erase blemishes, slim down waist-lines, whiten teeth and much more. This app is highly popular with celebrities and the general population alike, with celebrities constantly promoted and admitting their use of the app. Recently, the Kardashians received negative responses from fans when Khloe called Kim a “walking Facetune“–seemingly admitted their goal of obtaining inhumane perfection as perpetrated by technology.
This “instant fix” technology has led many to falsely perceive that is possible in the real world. Neelam Vashi, an assistant professor of dermatology at the Boston University School of Medicine and one of the article’s authors, said “sometimes I have patients who say ‘I want every single spot gone and I want it gone by this week or I want it gone by tomorrow,’ because that’s what this filtered photograph gave them.” However, she said “that’s not realistic. I can’t do that.”
The term ‘Snapchat dysmorphia’ was first coined by Britsh cosmetic doctor Tijion Esho. Esho says younger generations cannot escape infatuation with social media as they were born in the age of social media platforms. Therefore, high levels of self-worth are based on the number of likes, followers and other attention gained via social media. This leads to not only an unhealthy link of self-esteem to social media attention but also a potentially troubling view of one’s physical worth and beauty through online appearance–which is often skewed by the compulsive use of filters and photo-editing applications.
Until the flood of photo editing on social media, only celebrities were perceived as “perfect.” Yet, now, classmates, friends and family members are all seen as flawless due to this technology. This perception of perfection seems to be driving more individuals to have plastic surgery. In 2017, a survey found that 55 percent of surgeons reported seeing patients who requested surgery to look better in selfies–a 13 percent increase from 2016.
In 2007, a study estimated that 80 percent of people suffer from body dysmorphic disorder and 24 to 28 percent of suffers have attempted suicide. The rise in social media saturation in the lives of young people and increasing obsession with perceived physical perfection has led experts to fear these numbers will climb.