The cutest cut: plastic surgery for purely selfies reasons
More and more Millennials are requesting surgery that makes them look like their artificially airbrushed selfies
We know about Millennials and their me-generation narcissism, their desperate search for social media friend requests, followers and likes. Nowhere is this more pronounced than in what a 2017 study dubbed “selfitis” – the obsessive taking of self portraits that has reached such gigantic proportions that it’s estimated we will take about 25,000 pictures of ourselves in our lifetimes. According to the Guardian, the study found that motivations for obsessive self-photography range “from seeking social status to shaking off depressive thoughts and – of course – capturing memorable moments”.
All of which seem benign reasons to turn our cameras inwards rather than outwards, but there’s a spinoff effect of “selfitis” that’s quite creepy. While apps that smooth out blemishes and turn selfies into personal versions of airbrushed models on magazine covers – such as Apple’s Facetune and Facetune2, which have more than 55 million users – what if that virtual smoothing out of our natural features is not enough?
A recent Buzzfeed article, “How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation,” argues that those born between 1981 and 1996 have “been raised with the belief that they have to be exceptional, or they won’t succeed in an economy that since the early 2000s has seemed to dance perpetually on the edge of an abyss”.
Sophie Gilbert, writing in The Atlantic, notes that in this environment of uncertainty, “the performance of the self has become more important than the reality”. Thus “Millennials understand identity, including their anxieties about affirming their existences, online – literally, pics or it didn’t happen”.
That’s the background for a new phenomenon in which young Instagrammers and influencers ask for surgery that will make their real faces resemble more closely their digital ones. Cosmetic doctor Tijion Esho has coined the term “Snapchat dysmorphia” to describe it. Instead of using pictures of celebrities’ perfect facial features as models for surgery, patients now brought him digitally altered pictures of themselves, created using apps.
A recent article in the US medical journal JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery suggested that filtered images “blurring the line of reality and fantasy” could trigger body dysmorphic disorder, a mental health condition in which people become fixated on imagined defects in their appearance.
In spite of surgeons explaining to patients that the perfection they find in airbrush apps is not physically attainable in real life, even with advances in cosmetic surgery techniques, the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery has found that 55% of surgeons reported a 13% increase in the number of patients who request surgery so that they can look better in selfies.
This is a scary indictment of the vicious cycle of social media. Gilbert notes the perfectionist drive of the millennial generation, which “urges the posting of absurdly idealised images, which, transmitted, reinforce the cycle of physical ideals and a sense of alienation”.
No longer are selfies simply a celebration of your natural looks and place in the world – they can affect your actual looks and have more of an influence on how you live your life than just recording that life. If that’s not through the looking glass craziness then I don’t know what is.