Researchers at Boston University are now reporting a phenomenon they refer to as "Snapchat dysmorphia" and warn that apps that allow the user to "filter" or edit their appearance may be pushing more young people toward plastic surgery, Newsweek reports.
The thought behind their research is that by heavily editing our appearance online, social media users are feeling the need to be perfect and are losing touch with reality through the use of filters, which seemingly make everyone look perfect. Photo editing technology only used to be available to celebrities, but now the general population has access to enhancement software at the touch of a button.
The dermatology professors published these findings in the JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery journal, and reported that 55 percent of plastic surgeons are seeing patients whose main objective is to look better in selfies.
"Today, with apps like Snapchat and Facetune, that same level of perfection is accessible to everyone," the three BU professors wrote. "Now, it is not just celebrities propagating beauty standards: it is a classmate, a coworker, or a friend. 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 (BDD)."
Body dysmorphic disorder is a serious mental health issue and one in 50 people are affected based on research from the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. The disorder leads to sufferer to fixate on particular aspects of their appearance, which can result in unemployment through social isolation. Those afflicted with the disorder often also suffer from depression and obsessive compulsive disorder, which can lead to suicidal thoughts or actions. While the disorder often leads to cosmetic procedures, the surgeries can often worsen BDD.
Plastic surgeons are reporting a dramatic increase in patients asking for rhinoplasties, nose jobs, and eyelid lifts. The American Society of Plastic Surgeons claims that requests for these procedures has increased almost 200 percent since the new millennium. An estimated 17.5 million people had surgery in 2017 alone, which was a 2 percent rise from 2016.
These professors cite "Snapchat dysmorphia" as a disorder that leads patients to pursue cosmetic surgery to "look like filtered versions of themselves instead, with fuller lips, bigger eyes, or a thinner nose." The researchers warn that filtered selfies are setting an unattainable standard of beauty and "are blurring the line of fantasy and reality for these patients."