If you’re over 30, you probably remember the days when getting rid of red-eye in a photo was your biggest photographic concern. Now, people have so many options that the results hardly look human. And that’s a big problem when it aids people’s body dysmorphic disorder or creates the newly-minted “Snapchat dysmorphia.”
Striving for perfection
Plenty of us are guilty of looking at an old photo and wishing we looked that good in real life. Some of us even try to use that photo as a guide for how to style ourselves in the future. But social media filters do something different to our psyches. That’s because they allow us to airbrush away the tiniest flaws, see what we look like in perfect lighting, and even allow us to snip in our waists or hips.
Once we see ourselves as we truly want to be, the effects can be a little too alluring. In fact, more and more people are getting plastic surgery to look more like their filtered selves.
According to Jessica Baron in Forbes, “[In 2018] we were introduced to the phrase “Snapchat dysmorphia” in a piece by researchers from the Department of Dermatology at Boston University’s School of Medicine. In JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery, they described the ability of Snapchat and FaceTune filters to smooth out skin and make teeth look whiter and lips look fuller as a gateway to seeing oneself in a whole new way – a way users wanted to replicate in real life.”
Things have only gotten worse since then.
Your profile pic, yourself
According to Healthline (cited below), filtering isn’t necessarily the problem: “Filtering your selfies isn’t necessarily harmful. Often, it’s nothing more than a fun exercise, like dressing up or experimenting with a new makeup style.” The problem is when we filter ourselves so heavily and so constantly that we start to get disconnected from reality (especially the reality that someone could be so flawless).
“Snapchat dysmorphia, to put it simply, happens when you compare filtered selfies to your actual appearance. When you fixate on your perceived flaws, the feelings of discontent and unhappiness that surface might lead you to wish you could alter your features to match those filtered images.”
Snapchat dysmorphia is a problem, but not yet a diagnosis
Social media use in general has long been linked to increased bodily dissatisfaction. In fact, Meta (the parent company of Facebook and Instagram) is named in 8 lawsuits accusing the company of exploiting young people for profit.
Healthline states, “Snapchat dysmorphia isn’t an official mental health diagnosis, so experts have yet to determine a standard definition, criteria, or symptoms.”
Simply filtering your selfies doesn’t qualify you for this potential future diagnosis, however. Cosmetic surgery or injections to alter your face or body are things people have been doing for decades.
The problems come in when we fixate on our appearance in selfies, feel like we can no longer be as good as our social media selves, and get preoccupied with “flaws” that only we see (such as our eye placement, forehead, lip shape, etc.).
Some people become obsessed with taking selfies and editing them. They may go back and edit old photos to alter their appearance to measure up to some perceived standard. They feel anxiety over going out without heavy makeup. Or they get defensive when others take photos. They may even feel worse about themselves the more they take and alter selfies. The problem is, they’re unable to stop.
We may find that, in a few years, there’s a mental health diagnosis that addresses this. — WTF fun facts