Snapchat Dysmorphia, a recently coined term in 2018, is a new, social media driven issue. This term is a product of the drastic increase in patients looking to achieve unrealistic results through plastic surgery with inspiration coming from filtered selfies.
Applications like Snapchat and Instagram both offer filter features that were originally created to add a fun, humorous spin on our traditional, sub-par selfies. However, in recent months, these applications have added filters that now go beyond comical and offer a smooth, glamours overlay to our once “basic” photos. Instead of choosing from a selective bunch of animal ears and voice changers, we now have the option to choose a filter that will create an “upgraded” version of ourselves with features delivering smoother skin and fuller lips; all the more prettier to post and share with the world.
Since Snapchat and Instagram rolled out the filter feature, there’s been an alarming trend that plastic surgeons worldwide are paying closer attention to. Patients are no longer comparing themselves to the longtime, well-known source of influential beauty like actors and models but, instead, are coming in with requests to look like the filtered version of themselves.
Board Certified Plastic Surgeon, Dr. Matthew Schulman, has coined the recent phenomenon “Snapchat Dysmorphia”. Plastic surgery had always been an option for individuals seeking to improve their appearance, with the end goal of looking good and feeling better with boosted confidence. Although patients are still looking to obtain the traditional fixes via plastic surgery, they’re nixing the usual celebrity inspiration and opting for a filtered Snapchat Selfie.
Renee Engeln, professor of Psychology at Northwestern University, and author of Beauty Sick: How the Cultural Obsession with Appearance Hurts Girls and Women, recently told the Huffington Post, “There’s an issue with losing perspective on what you actually look like, and it’s not something we talk about much.” She further added, “It’s not enough [to] have to compare yourself to these perfected images of models, but now you’ve got this daily comparison of your real self to this intentional or unintentional fake self that you present on social media. It’s just one more way to feel like your falling short every day.”
Although western beauty standards aren’t changing with the involvement of the social media age as patients are still seeking smooth skin, fuller lips and larger eyes, the fact that they are so easily accessible and more widely available is what is making all the difference. Having a perfectly filtered photo at our fingertips, revealing our ideal selves, is the unintentional work of interactive apps. like Instagram and Snapchat. Plastic surgery has become a more widely accepted practice for self-improvement, however, it is important to have a realistic mindset when undergoing any procedure.
One of the main concerns with the rise of social media and camera filters is that it can have a detrimental effect on someone’s psychological state. Although there is no set-in stone Snapchat dysmorphia definition, it comes as no surprise that doctors have related it closely to body dysmorphic disorder. According to the article “Is Snapchat Dysmorphia a Real Issue?” The American Psychiatric Association classified body dysmorphic disorder (BDD) to be on the obsessive compulsive spectrum. Mejia explains that individuals suffering from BDD are “preoccupied with at least one nonexistent or slight defect in physical appearance. This can lead them to think about the defect for at least one hour a day, therefore impacting their social, occupational and other levels of functioning.”
Cosmetic Doctor, Tijion Esho, of the Esho Clinic, recently told Independent that his consultations are not limited to asking what the patient wants but also why the patient wants it. It requires a lot of close attention to detail when listening to the patient’s needs. If there are any red flags hinting to a deeper issue like BDD, Esho refers those patients to seek counselling and will refuse the treatment.
Dr. Esho explains, “We have a stringent consultation process in place, which assess the patient’s suitability for treatment and we never do treatment on the same day, allowing the patient to ‘cool off’ and really think about their choice. This is important as many can act on impulse.”
Esho goes on to state, “Today’s generation can’t escape the Truman effect because from birth they are born into an age of social platforms where their feelings of self-worth can be based purely on the number of likes and followers that they have, which is linked to how good they look or how great these images are.”
Although aware of the serious effects of Snapchat dysmorphia, there are some surgeons that prefer their patients bring in their filtered photos as opposed to celebrities. Dr. Schulman makes a valid point in believing that “a doctored version of a selfie is often more realistic than trying to look like someone else entirely, especially when using a photo of a celebrity as a starting point.” This act alone helps reiterate the “reality” behind plastic surgery and stays within the theme of delivering realistic results.
By understanding the severity of Snapchat dysmorphia, plastic surgery procedures can be performed correctly and appropriately on the qualifying candidates. Becoming aware of the deeper issues can help potentially save individuals a lifetime of mental health issues alongside a large lump sum of money.