Doctors are raising concerns about a new way social media may be messing with your self-esteem: something called “Snapchat dysmorphia.”
An increasing number of patients are seeking out plastic surgery based on what they see in apps like Snapchat and Facetune, according to three dermatologists from the Boston University School of Medicine and Boston Medical Center writing in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery.
“A new phenomenon, dubbed ‘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,” they 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.”
That’s in contrast to patients of the past, who tended to seek inspiration from celebrities, according to the authors. A growing number of people are also interested in facial symmetry, rather than small fixes like smoothing out a bump in the nose, the article says.
The term “Snapchat dysmorphia” is derived from body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), which is characterized by obsession over perceived physical flaws, even those that may be invisible to others, according to the Mayo Clinic. While Snapchat dysmorphia is not a clinically diagnosable condition, the authors write that pursuing surgery for unrealistic facial changes could contribute to or exacerbate BDD.
Representatives from Snapchat did not immediately respond to TIME’s request for comment. A spokesperson for Facetune said in a statement that, “Facetune and Facetune 2 are actually breaking the illusion of ‘perfect body’ ideals. Everyone — from famous supermodels to your aunt —use it, and everyone knows everyone is using it. Arguing otherwise is naive. It levels the playing field for everyone.”
Snapchat dysmorphia may be a relatively new phenomenon, but other research also suggests that social media and selfies are altering the way people view themselves. Around 55% of facial plastic surgeons report seeing patients who are seeking operations to look better in selfies, according to the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery — perhaps in part because research has shown that selfies make your nose look 30% bigger. And a 2015 study of adolescent girls found that those who regularly shared and edited photos on social media had higher levels of body dissatisfaction than those who did not.
Taken together, these results point to a worrying trend, the JAMA authors write.
“Overall, social media apps, such as Snapchat and Facetune, are providing a new reality of beauty for today’s society,” they write. “It can be argued that these apps are making us lose touch with reality because we expect to look perfectly primped and filtered in real life as well.”
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