Some of us do it without even thinking anymore: open the Snapchat app, set it to selfie mode, and flip through the growing variety of filters to find the perfect one that will alter our faces just the way we want.
There's a certain satisfaction that comes with seeing our features flattered by filters. If you want your nose narrowed, your eyes brightened, or your cheeks flattened, there's definitely a filter for that. Snapchat allows us the chance to create beautiful and idealized versions of ourselves.
But what happens when we begin to hate our unfiltered faces, preferring the perfect, polished ones Snapchat can offer? The result is an alarming psychological phenomenon known as "Snapchat dysmorphia" where people seek out plastic surgeons to make them look like their social media selfies.
The medical journal JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery recently published an article by Boston University School of Medicine researchers who claim doctors have increasingly encountered people wanting their faces changed to match those they create with Snapchat and Instagram filters. In fact, this desire has become so extreme that experts have placed it on the body dysmorphia spectrum.
Body dysmorphia (BDD) is a mental illness and a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) that sees people become obsessed with their perceived appearance and flaws.
Applications like Facetune and Snapseed allow users to easily take their selfies and edit out whatever they deem undesirable, like wrinkles or dark circles under their eyes. Neelam Vashi, a professor of dermatology at the Boston University School of Medicine, told The Washington Post that the ability to edit photos so easily is altering people's perceptions of beauty.
"Sometimes I have patients who say, 'I want every single spot gone and I want it gone by this week or I want it gone tomorrow' because that's what this filtered photography gave them," she said. "That's not realistic. I can't do that."
In the JAMA article, researchers said users of such apps as Snapchat and Instagram are losing touch with reality because their expectations for beauty have been altered so dramatically.
"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," the researchers wrote.
They concluded that in order to combat this growing concern, doctors must be aware of the implications of social media so they can "better treat and counsel their patients."
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