When someone mentions addiction, our thoughts most likely jump to alcohol, drug or gambling addictions perhaps. Although, addiction can be anything that we psychologically or physiologically cannot resist. In fact, you may be more susceptible than you would think.

AM I ADDICTED?

We live in a world where social media runs our lives and before we know it, we are addicted. Addicted to the validation, addicted to the desire to achieve the perfection portrayed by social media. These days it is made ever so accessible to follow popular culture and keep up with the latest trends to make people more ‘beautiful’. What may appear to be harmless aspiration and desire can more often than not develop into something more adverse. Addictions to perfectionism or even body dysmorphic disorder may arise, which is a more serious cause for concern. Body dysmorphic disorder is a mental health disorder in which you can’t stop thinking about perceived defects or flaws in your appearance. You might be thinking this all sounds a bit drastic, but it is the unfortunate truth.

 

SNAPCHAT DYSMORPHIA

“Trends in beauty standards have existed down the centuries but now the focus has been excessively magnified, often dangerously, by the all-consuming social-media driven obsession.” warns Dr. Maurizio Viel, Cosmetic Surgeon.

Numerous social media platforms have adopted the feature of face filters. These are filters you can put over your face with your camera on and poof, your imperfections are gone and you are left with a flawless face. There is no ‘one filter fits all’ of course, there are a wide range of filters to fit the ideals of all on social media. Whether that is to rid of your wrinkles, or enlarge your lips, or even resemble an animal such as a tiger. On the one hand, these filters and face tune features are a way of changing our appearance without actually making physical changes to ourselves. It is fun to play around and see what we would look like with bigger eyes or whiskers.

However, patients are now requesting plastic surgery to look like their snapchat  or other social media filters, “Snapchat dysmorphia” it is called. They no longer ask for surgeries based on the imperfection they see in the mirror but rather the imperfections they didn’t even realize they had until the filter erased them, only to show an even better version of themselves. As Dr. Maurizio Viel put it, “The aim is no longer merely to look young, but often to look radically different and sometimes, even to the point of appearing as a human caricature to reflect digital apps that distort contours in an exaggerated way.”

Many doctors are now being asked to perform ‘transformation’ surgery as opposed to ‘beautification’ surgery. This has risen concern amongst plastic and cosmetic surgeons, including Dr. Viel. When faced with such a dilemma, he is clear in saying no to this type of operation. “If I’m not comfortable with the request, even with a medical aesthetics lip enhancement for instance that in my view is too over the top, I refuse. For me, less is more.”

IT IS INNATE: BIOLOGY OF ATTRACTION

Among the many explanations and theories as to why people are obsessed with beauty and achieving the perfect look can be looked at in terms of biology of attraction. Simply put, by following the trends of ‘beauty’ we become more attractive for a potential partner. Evolutionarily speaking, our innate goal is to reproduce, and by attracting a partner we can fulfill that goal. If you look at certain trends today, let’s take larger butts and larger breasts on a woman for example. These may be seen as indicators of a woman’s likely hormonal and physical fertility. Therefore, features such as these may be seen as more attractive as they suggest a higher chance of reproduction.

Now of course, this is probably not what most of us think of when we assess beauty trends. However, it is one theory that may drive people to change their looks to conform to the beauty standards of the time.

IT IS INNATE: OUR PSYCHOLOGICAL NEED TO FIT IN

As humans we also have the innate need to be accepted and to belong. This intrinsic motivation drives people to make social comparisons of themselves to others and conform to what they perceive as the social norms.

‘Influencers’ and celebrities promoting new trends on social media can be seen as the new ‘in group’ now. This is a social category which a person identifies strongly with. Plainly, in group is seen as good and out group is seen as bad. This mentality only exacerbates the need to conform to the in group to maintain the status as an ingroup member. Therefore, with the continuous circulation of new trends, it is a never ending obsession to keep up with beauty trends.

WHAT IS IT WITH THE ANIMAL LOOK CRAZE?

As I mentioned earlier, these face filters also offer filters to make you look like an animal, or to isolate the desired features of an animal to apply to your face. The desire of resembling animal species other than our own has also been around for a fair amount of time but through the help of social media there has been a boom in the animal style makeup trends, tattooing treatments, or body alterations. For example the “cat eye”, which is a widely adopted trend, from eyeliner to sunglasses. The trend can even be dated back to Ancient Egypt times, such as Cleopatra’s signature eyeliner.

Ever heard of “devil lips” – also known as “octopus lips”? The trend starting in Russia, believed to have started by Russian plastic surgeon Emelian Braude, swept social media platforms. Women would allegedly have fillers injected into the outer edge of their lips in order to create a wave.

But the eccentric animal mimicking beauty trends do not stop there. There are people who have taken the animal look to the next level through extreme body modification. This widespread yet unusual fascination is made possible through tattoos, implants, piercings and plastic surgery all to resemble a particular animal.

PLASTIC SURGERY POPULAR WITH THE YOUNGER DEMOGRAPHIC

The world of plastic and cosmetic surgery is huge and access to it is a wonderful asset we can now benefit from. It can of course help improve one’s self-esteem and confidence but the step to plastic surgery should take serious consideration and close work and trust with the surgeon. It is important to also have realistic expectations, “Often when I am consulting with a potential patient, the first part of the meeting is to manage their expectations. What appears online can be misleading to say the least.”, says Dr. Viel.  As these online social media trends target the younger generations, people are getting plastic surgery done younger and younger now. The more concerning aspect of this is the surgery requests, as they are becoming increasingly unusual, focused on achieving their snapchat or face tuned looks. With trends rapidly changing, the plastic surgery does not simply end with one procedure. The patients tend to become frequent members of the plastic surgery world with often requesting unnecessary surgeries to conform to the ever changing trends.

It is important to be aware of these obsessions and the blind following of the newest trends. Trends come and go and filters are temporary, but the big step of cosmetic and plastic surgery is not something that should be instigated on the basis of social media trends.