Social media has changed the way we see ourselves. On one hand, Instagram can open windows to more inclusive ideas of beauty, with viral images of imperfections inspiring us to share our own zits and stretch marks. But these apps can influence our self-perception in far more insidious ways. Doctors have even coined the term “Snapchat dysmorphia” to describe the way face filters and edited selfies are creating pressure for us to look perfect IRL. Now, some are warning of people turning to surgery to look like their favorite filters. Today’s most popular procedures? whiter skin, bigger eyes, fuller lips, and a slimmer face — mimicking the subtle face-tuning of the ubiquitous flower crown and puppy filters.
“Snapchat dysmorphia” was first used by The Independent earlier this year, but a report published this week sheds new light on the scary phenomenon. Three researchers from Boston University, writing in the JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery medical journal, say that filtered selfies are increasingly blurring the line between reality and fantasy. "It is known that the angle and close distance at which selfies are taken may distort facial dimensions and lead to dissatisfaction,” the researchers continue. “Patients may seek surgery hoping to look better in selfies and social media." Teens and young people are particularly prone to this new breed of body dysmorphia. While people previously brought in photos of celebrities, they’re now using edited selfies and social media apps to show how they want to look.
It’s not the first time filters have been linked to dysmorphia. A couple of years ago, people criticized popular Snapchat’s “beauty” filter for lightening skin tones and slimming noses. “Lowkey boycotting the beauty filter on Snapchat bc it just whitens your skin and who needs that oppressive colorism in their life u feel,” wrote one user in a viral Tumblr post. If only we could all be so woke.