"Snapchat Dysmorphia" has now officially entered the medical lexicon. According to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), an astonishing number of plastic surgery patient now list "selfies" as a primary motivation for going under the knife.
The paper states, “A new phenomenon, dubbed ‘Snapchat dysmorphia,’ has patients seeking out cosmetic surgery to look like filtered versions of themselves instead, with fuller lips, bigger eyes, or a thinner nose. 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.”
Whether we like it or not, we live in an era of flawlessly edited selfies and ever-evolving standards of beauty. The popularity of image-based social media has put Photoshop and filters in everyone’s arsenal, unlike yonder years when only those in the spotlight had access to these tools. Now, it is not just celebrities propagating beauty standards: it is a classmate, a coworker, or a friend.
A few swipes on Snapchat can give decorate a selfie with a crown of flowers or puppy ears, lighten the skin, or add a sparkle to your eyes. A little adjusting on Facetune can smoothen out skin, and make teeth look whiter and eyes and lips bigger. A quick share on Instagram, and the likes and comments start rolling in. These filters and edits have become the norm, altering people’s perception of beauty worldwide.
Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), is a condition which involves “excessive preoccupation with a perceived flaw in appearance, classified on the obsessive-compulsive spectrum.” Snapchat dysphoria can be described as an offshoot of the same condition. "Those with a dysmorphic body image may seek out social media as a means of validating their attractiveness," the study notes. With those with higher engagement on social media platforms more likely to have a higher level of body dissatisfaction, despite trying to "present a specific image of themselves or analyzing and commenting on other’s photos".
Teens, who once focused on things like the size of their nose, for example, are now hypercritical of completely normal lines, blemishes, and imperfections masked by Snapchat filters. The American Medical Academy of Facial and Reconstructive Plastic Surgery says 55% of clinicians saw patients who “wanted to look better in their selfies” in 2017. This signifies a 13% increase from the previous year. The most common procedures from clients between 17 and 22 years old ask for are oversized eyes and lips, narrowed jawlines, refined nose, and flawless skin.
“It can be argued that these apps are making us lose touch with reality because we expect to look perfectly primped and filtered in real life as well,” according to the study. “Filtered selfies especially can have harmful effects on adolescents or those with BDD because these groups may more severely internalize this beauty standard.”
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons estimated that Americans spent $16 billion on cosmetic surgical fees in 2016.