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5th March 2020

Me, my selfie and I: selfie dysmorphia

Writer Lottie Norton questions if social media and apps are unintentionally encouraging people to undergo cosmetic surgery due to Selfie Dysmorphia
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Me, my selfie and I: selfie dysmorphia
Selfie Photo by Apostolos Vamvouras on Unsplash

The new phenomenon of people requesting surgical procedures to look like their digitally enhanced versions has been referred to as ‘selfie dysmorphia’ which you may have also seen being called Snapchat or Instagram dysmorphia.

The term was coined by Tijion Esho, the founder of the Esho clinics, when he noticed patients were now pointing to airbrushed or edited photos of themselves as a guide to how they wanted to look, instead of photos of celebrities with an ideal nose or jaw.

Jack Duckett, lifestyle analyst from Mintel, reported that “Millennials are more open to cosmetic procedures than any other generational group.” Its most recent report found that 28% of 18- to 24-year-olds and 31% of 25- to 34-year-olds have had some form of cosmetic treatment (compared with an average of just 21% for the whole UK population).

So, by using filters are people having a consultation with their phone before they seek a real surgeon?

So what’s the appeal of filters? They make your skin bright and smooth. As for acne – never heard of it. Not to mention, they make your facial structure more defined, your lips more plumped, and eyes larger and brighter. OK they sound a bit fab and yes filters make you look amazing but they’re also not real!

We are a social media generation and sadly this means that we have become obsessed with physical appearances and perfection, evident from the Oxford dictionary choosing the word ‘selfie’ as word of the year in 2013 and the rise of makeup techniques like contouring.

Years ago, only professionals had access to photoshopping software which would primarily be used for modelling photo shoots or advertising campaigns. However, today nearly everyone with a camera phone has access to some sort of filters or photoshopping software.

People are not only using filters but also apps like ‘Facetune’ which enables regular people to alter their own images. This was Apples’ most purchased app of 2017. Many celebrities use this app to make themselves look slimmer whilst accentuating their waists and enhancing their lips, breasts, and bums.

The aim of the game is to make it impossible to tell that you have used Facetune. This is increasingly problematic as this makes people think that a Barbie-like aesthetic is attainable, when no one naturally looks like this. It is only possible through means of surgical enhancements which are extremely invasive and expensive.

My friends have shown me celebrities they admired for how ‘naturally pretty’ they are without makeup. Such images show women with smooth skin, no bags, extremely straight white teeth and of course acne doesn’t exist on Instagram! However, these images are usually filtered, Photoshopped, or edited. This is troublesome as it creates a precedent of what women should look like without make-up.

For most of us, this is not a reality of how we look. I know myself, especially as a student, and without make-up, I look very sleep deprived and have many stress spots. Filtered images are blurring the lines between reality and fantasy. This is causing people to be apologetic when they have ‘imperfections’ like spots, bags, oily or blotchy skin, but these so-called ‘imperfections’ are completely normal attributes that everyone has.

With the prevalent use of filters and various apps, we find ourselves in a danger zone of not only comparing ourselves to celebrities but also with everyone who uses such software to create filtered versions of themselves. The issue with social media, especially the content some people choose to post, is that it is extremely selective. People filter out their ‘bad angles’ so do not be fooled. Most of the images you see online are surgically or digitally enhanced. Stop comparing yourself to others and focus on loving the skin you were born in.


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