Is Social Media Changing The Way We See Ourselves?

The exponential growth of 21st Century technology is beginning to shape our internal and external worlds. Though the tech rise has given us life-altering advances in the fields of medicine and psychiatry, has birthed man’s new mission to mars and offered us a valuable opportunity for accessible education for millions, the age of social media might be damaging our collective psyches.

Our use of social media is ubiquitous and seemingly unhindered. Medical professionals have become increasingly concerned over the effect social media use has on our mental wellbeing, reporting that usage is linked with a heightened risk of depression. A national survey by Pitt’s Center for Research on Media, Technology and Health found that use of multiple platforms like Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook, are strongly associated with depression and anxiety, especially amongst adolescents. The usage of these platforms seems to inspire a potentially harmful level of self comparison that inadvertently leads to feelings of self-loathing and criticism, especially surrounding our body image.

Doctors are now suggesting that photo-editing and image filtering apps are connected with a rise in plastic surgery procedures. Specifically, Snapchat filters, are allegedly promoting unattainable beauty standards and a desire for almost inhuman physical characteristics. These filters create the illusion of blemish-free skin, refined features, larger eyes, small chins and slender noses. The negative effects of this kind of warped self image control appear to be more dangerous to those with histories of eating disorders and body dysmorphic disorder (BDD). BDD sufferers are unsurprisingly triggered by the bombardment of images of distorted bodies on social media.

“Snapchat dysmorphia” is a term first coined by British cosmetic surgeon Tijion Esho to describe the rise in patients who desired plastic surgery to mimic their filtered selfies. A 2017 survey by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery found that 55% of plastic surgery patients reported that looking better in selfies was there prime reason behind their desire for the intended surgeries. “We’ve seen this dynamic for several years. People’s obsession with their appearance on social media and the ease and frequency of selfies has led to a number of young people who seek plastic surgery,” Dr. Patrick Byrne, director of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Johns Hopkins University, said. “Nobody has a perfect facial appearance — real life makes that obvious, but online it isn’t obvious because people can control their appearance,” he said. If you believe you are experiencing the negative effects of social media, seek help and connection, beyond your screen.