Do Snapchat Filters Cause Dysmorphia?

The overview of a new study, published in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery, suggests that Instagram and Snapchat filters are contributing to unrealistic beauty standards all over the world.  According to the researchers, analysis of industry studies indicate that people have sought out more [facial] surgical treatments with specific desires to look more like the filtered and altered versions of themselves via social media app filters. These requests include things like: “fuller lips, bigger eyes, or a thinner nose.”

In a statement, that three Boston University School of Medicine department of dermatology researchers comment, “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.”

The reason it is so alarming, of course, is because this is actually very dangerous. Not only the procedures themselves but, more importantly, because this type of mindset is very similar to body dysmorphia. This is a mental health condition where someone obsesses about how other people perceive their physical flaws, particularly because we live in a time when everyone is able to present a “perfect” version of themselves over the internet.

Indeed, the JAMA article states: “These apps allow one to alter his or her appearance in an instant and conform to an unrealistic and often unattainable standard of beauty.”

In the past, the plastic surgery industry has long been appreciated as a means for people to pursue somewhat unattainable beauty, but this new phase of obsession is far more pronounced, particularly in this younger generation, because not only are they constantly snapping pictures of themselves, but they are able to edit them on the fly.

According to Dr. Patrick Byrne, who is the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine director of the Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Department, “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 goes on to say, “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.”