The two main applications in question included Snapchat and Instagram, both of which have 187-million and 600-million daily active users. These two applications provide filters that allow users to change their skin tone, soften fine lines and wrinkles, alter the size of their eyes, lips, and cheeks, and change various aspects of their physical appearance.
Dr. Yagoda, a plastic surgeon, told that he had observed many of his clients describing their desired changes, which corresponded to what the filters on these two applications could provide. Hence the term “Snapchat Dysmorphia” came to life.
Snapchat’s dysmorphia is a phenomenon of the modern era that questions the line between reality and fantasy.
You’ve never looked better. Your skin is poreless, your nose looks small, your lips look plump, and you’re doe-eyed. You’re ready to hit “post” for the world to see. Cue the likes. People want to look beautiful. That’s a natural part of living in our society. However, I really do believe that social media is propagating and accentuating these unrealistic expectations of beauty.
Is this really you?
While seeing your own imperfections in the mirror is nothing new. Having the knowledge about what you could look like without them is. Both platforms are very image-focused, and it appears they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people. For some, this means it encourages them to view their own, natural appearance as being unacceptable.
Many people are concerned that relying on these filters and projecting a heavily edited image of oneself to the world can not only severely impact users’ self-esteem but their mental health, too. It may act as a trigger and lead to BDD (Body dysmorphic disorder). BDD is a very serious mental health condition in which a person’s misperception of how they appear becomes obsessive to the point that it severely affects their everyday functioning.
Researchers show that teenage girls who manipulate their photos tend to be more preoccupied with their body image. Also, teen girls with BDD turn to social media in search of aesthetic validation. A person’s preoccupation with ‘defects’ often leads to behaviors such as constantly looking in a mirror, picking at their skin, trying to hide or cover-up, and constantly asking for reassurance.
This ongoing focus on unrealistic beauty standards is one reason why social media links itself to depression, narcissism, and self-esteem issues. And now to Snapchat dysmorphia. While social media use does not directly cause BDD, it can definitely act as a trigger for teens with genetic or psychological predispositions toward the condition. And it may worsen BDD symptoms in those who are already suffering from the disorder. The filtered selfies often present an unattainable look and are blurring the line of reality and fantasy for the patients.
The digital age of vulnerability
Today’s generation can’t escape ‘the Truman effect’ because they are born into an age of social platforms. Their feelings of self-worth can be based purely on the number of likes and followers that they have. Which is in-turn linked to how good they look or how great these images are. Until recent times, only models and celebrities could take flawless, envy-inducing photos. However, given the accessibility of editing applications, once seemingly unattainable beauty standards are now flooded into social media feeds daily. Apparently, the “perfect” people in the photos happen to be everybody around us, our friends, classmates, and family members.
However, this is not specific to Snapchat. Social media, in general, is believed to be damaging to people’s perception of appearance and body image.
Think about it. You’ve only ever seen reflections of yourself, or pictures, or possibly the sides of your nose if you close one eye. Even you don’t know exactly what you look like. So when you alter photographs of yourself, you’re just creating one unreliable image on top of another. And correcting imperfections that the average observer may not notice anyway. So in a way, the face we see in the selfie is an accurate representation of ourselves, just not our physical selves. It’s a reflection of our ideals and aspirations and insecurities — and that can be as distorting as any photo filter.