Photo filters are undoubtedly cute and fun. If you find yourself wishing your favorite filter is real, you are not alone. Apparently, hundreds are willing to take their selfie game to the extreme. According to a study, these supposedly harmless apps have a much deeper effect on its users, known as “Snapchat Dysmorphia.” Rather than a mere beauty trend, experts refer to it as a “psychological phenomenon,” and can be classified as a body dysmorphic disorder (BDD)
Published in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery Viewpoint, the study defines BDD as “an excessive preoccupation with a perceived flaw in appearance, classified on the obsessive-compulsive disorder.” Crediting it to “more than an insecurity or a lack of confidence,” those diagnosed with this disorder go to drastic lengths to change their appearance or correct a “flaw.” Though BDD isn’t new, Snapchat Dysmorphia surfaced only recently.
Whereas in the past, the goal is to look like a certain celebrity, people now walk into plastic surgery centers using their filtered selves as a beauty reference. The researchers stated, “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,” adding that “The pervasiveness of these filtered images can take a toll on one’s self-esteem, make one feel inadequate for not looking a certain way in the real world, and may even act as a trigger and lead to body dysmorphic disorder.” Additionally, reports from the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons 2017 poll show that the number of people who see plastic surgeons specifically to look better in their selfies has gone up by 13 percent in the last year.
Apps like Snapseed, Facetune, or those built into Facebook and Instagram offer immediate and accessible touch-ups. Aside from instant puppy ears, flower crowns, or freckles, the apps usually give its users glowing skin, enlarged eyes, thin noses, and full lips—the usual demands of today’s clients, as shared by one dermatologist to Vox. “Most of the time, they want to talk about how they appear in their edited photos. And they are looking to explore options of how to translate that into reality.” Unfortunately, according to the dermatologist, that reality isn’t always achievable. “We can’t do that in real life. And if they really can’t be made to match that, they will be inherently disappointed.”
She also revealed that millennials are her top clients. One of them shared her decision to permanently “edit out” the wrinkles on her face at age 23 because, comparable to when she uses Facetune app, “she thought she looked fresher and prettier in pictures when the shadow was erased.” The patient also reportedly got regular Botox injections every nine months, and has also had work done on her lips and skin “because it didn’t look pretty on camera.”
This is just one of the many examples experts cite as the alarming effects of social media and new technologies. Another cosmetic doctor shared how he declined one patient’s request to get cosmetic treatment and instead referred her for counselling where she is currently making “great progress.”
These incidents mirror the growing discontent people have with the way they look, and how unrealistic proportions based on what we see online become the new beauty standard. Sadly, many fail to realize the continually evolving definition of beauty perfection is unattainable. It also goes to show how powerful media can be, to radically alter the public’s perception and lead them to believe these digital images as the new reality.
Art by Marian Hukom
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