When you alter a photo, you may start to think that that's what you should look like
Social media and even dating apps mean that often, the first version of ourselves other people meet is a digital image
A perception gap can cause serious psychological problems
Social media filters are fun! You can look like a puppy dog or a nerdy cat or a fairy princess, or just hot! Like, slightly hotter than you actually are. Like you, but spackled and sandblasted and shaved down until you have a chin sharper than the Matterhorn and the complexion of a cotton ball.
The problem is, when you alter a photo and the result is a you-but-better-version staring back, you may start to get it in your head that that’s what you should look like. Cosmetic doctors are noticing an uptick in people who are bringing Facetuned, filtered and otherwise altered photos into their offices, or pulling up unaltered selfies to point out what they want fixed. They’re calling it “Snapchat dysmorphia,” and although the term has been around for a while, a recent article in the JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery brings the topic into focus.
“Overall, social media apps, such as Snapchat and Facetune, are providing a new reality of beauty for today’s society,” the article reads. “These apps allow one to alter his or her appearance in an instant and conform to an unrealistic and often unattainable standard of beauty.”
The article claims that the phenomenon can mess with our heads, fostering some unhealthy ideas about what we really see in the mirror – and on our phones.
We’re constantly in contact with our own image …
Dr. Patrick Byrne, director of the Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Department at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, says the root of the problem is fairly simple: In the selfie age, people just see their faces (and bodies) more.
“The experience of younger humans in particular in this regard, how they relate to their own appearance, is so profoundly different than at any other point in time,” he said. “We used to have photographs, of course, but we gazed upon them and thought about them infrequently. Now, we’re in this world where people are exposed to their own facial image thousands of times per year.”