"Snapchat Dysmorphia" Is A Growing Trend Among Social Media Users

By Victoria Kim 08/14/18

Easy-to-use photo filters are blurring the line between reality and fantasy.

two women using snapchat on their smartphones

Apparently, some people are taking their love of photo filters a bit too far. That’s according to a recent paper published in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery, which describes the emerging phenomenon known as “Snapchat dysmorphia.”

Body dysmorphic disorder is characterized by obsessive thoughts of the flaws in one’s appearance, though these perceived flaws may not be noticeable to others.

Photo filters and retouching tools in smartphone apps like Snapchat and Facetune allow just about anybody to edit away any perceived flaws in their “selfies”—but for some people, this just isn’t enough.

Some doctors say that while previously, cosmetic surgery patients would bring in images of celebrities whose features they want to emulate, these days, patients will try and emulate the “filtered versions” of themselves.

“Most of the time, [patients] want to talk about how they appear in their edited photos. And they are looking to explore options of how to translate that into reality,” Noëlle Sherber, who runs a dermatology and plastic surgery practice in Washington, D.C., told Vox.

The term “Snapchat dysmorphia” appears in a paper published in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery on August 2, based on a trend first identified in the 2017 Annual American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS) survey.

The paper cited a recent study that found that adolescent girls who “manipulated their photos more reported a higher level of concern with their bodies and an overestimation of body shape and weight.” A higher level of body dissatisfaction was also associated with a higher level of engagement on social media. 

According to the AAFPRS survey, in 2015, 42% of patients requested surgery to improve their selfies. That number is now 55%.

The paper in JAMA notes that many of the features that appear in retouched selfies are unattainable with cosmetic surgery. This “trend” of “Snapchat dysmorphia” is alarming, the authors say, because it is “blurring the line of reality and fantasy.”

Sherber echoed this point to Vox, “Some of the changes [that patients] are making to their faces are not achievable. We can’t do that in real life. And if they really can’t be made to match that, they will be inherently disappointed.”

Rather than cosmetic surgery, the authors of the paper say that behavior indicative of body dysmorphic disorder should be addressed with counseling.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr