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‘Snapchat dysmorphia’ is a thing — and plastic surgeons are worried

Social media filters gave teenagers versions of themselves with flawless skin and big baby blues. What did we expect to happen?!

Doctors have been worrying about the impact that social media has on self-image for a while. But now the term “snapchat dysmorphia” has now made it into the pages of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

In a co-authored opinion piece (spotted by Inverse) titled “Selfies — Living in the era of filtered photographs,” three plastic surgeons sound the alarm about how selfie filters are impacting people seeking plastic surgery, especially those suffering from the medical disorder body dysmorphia. 

The way people look in filtered selfies — with smooth skin, symmetrical features, full lips, and big, sparkly eyes — has become a new basis for obsession in people with body dysmorphic disorder, or, “an excessive preoccupation with a perceived flaw in appearance” that can cause them to seek frequent plastic surgery.

In the past, the doctors write, people would bring in photoshopped images of celebrities to plastic surgery consultations (which is totally cool and not worrisome at all!). But now, prospective patients — including teens — are using filtered images of their faces from apps like Snapchat to inform what they want their faces to look like after going under the knife. 

“‘Snapchat dysmorphia’ has patients seeking out cosmetic surgery to look like filtered versions of themselves instead, with fuller lips, bigger eyes, or a thinner nose,” the authors write. “This is an alarming trend because those filtered selfies often present an unattainable look and are blurring the line of reality and fantasy for these patients.”

Snapchat dysmorphia isn’t exactly new. Earlier this year, a plastic surgeon known as Dr. Esho coined the phrase, and it was popularized in several articles in February 2018. A January 2018 study found that a desire to look better in selfies was a prevalent reason people were seeking plastic surgery. And a 2015 study found that “self photo editing and photo investment are associated with body dissatisfaction in adolescent girls.” 

But, come on, what were we expecting? People with extra cash have long sought out ways to artificially perfect their appearances with surgery. Now, instead of just staring into the mirror or pages of magazines in wistful dissatisfaction, everyone has a pocket-sized Magic Mirror, showing them how they could be the most beautiful of them all — if only they could look like Flower Crown girl filter, IRL. 

The most concerning thing here is that perhaps people wouldn’t have otherwise found flaws in a few pimples or perfectly normal-sized eyes if face-tuning hadn’t existed. Perhaps body dysmorphia is increasing thanks to Snapchat. However, at this point, anecdotal evidence from plastic surgeons, and opinion pieces like Thursday’s articles, is insufficient to draw that causal connection. 

But let’s just say we wouldn’t be surprised if a study is soon able to connect the adorably sprinkled fake freckles.

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