young woman taking a selfie

Looks can be deceiving: Unrealistic expectations and “selfie surgery”

It’s never been easier to share your pictures with the world. Almost anybody now can post their pictures to the internet, whether it’s to chase viral fame or just share special moments with friends.

But there’s a downside to all that access. It’s easy to post something for all to see – only to regret it later. The proliferation of images, easy-to-use photo filters and instant feedback can also reinforce unrealistic and unhealthy beauty standards and harm your self-image.

What happens online doesn’t necessarily stay online. It can have a real impact on real life. A recent study by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery shows that “selfie awareness” is prompting people to seek out cosmetic procedures. In 2017, about 55 percent of patients told their facial plastic surgeons they wanted to look better in a selfie.

Dr. Pedro Rodriguez, a plastic and reconstructive surgeon at OSF HealthCare Saint Anthony Medical Center in Rockford has experienced it firsthand.

“People are not only feeling like they need plastic surgery because of the way they look in their selfies, they’re actually editing the pictures themselves through different filters, through Snapchat, Twitter, Facebook,” says Dr. Rodriguez. “They actually use different filters to edit the pictures and ask if this is possible. And if it’s not possible, how close to it can we get?”

More than vanity

man taking a selfie on a beachDr. Rodriguez does not think “selfie surgery” is purely a matter of vanity. He says by changing one’s outward appearance – something that may appear trivial to others – surgeons can change a person’s self-esteem and attitude on life.

While understanding a person’s desire to feel good about themselves, Dr. Rodriguez warns that cell phone photo filters do not portray a realistic look.

“The whole purpose of our office is, in that particular situation, to educate our patients,” says Dr. Rodriguez. “We want to help them understand that what they want to achieve may not be realistic. And, if it’s not realistic, we show them what other avenues they have in terms of possibility and what procedures we can perform, either invasive or noninvasive, to achieve what they want to achieve.”

Research matters

Dr. Rodriguez’s best advice is to not let a filtered photo be your sole guide to perceiving your true image. He also emphasizes people do their homework when choosing a plastic and reconstructive surgeon.

“In 2017, the guidelines of plastic surgery were focusing on how the plastic surgeons portray themselves on the internet.” says Dr. Rodriguez. “And the biggest problem with that has come from cosmetic surgeons, which are not board certified plastic surgeons, and edit and alter the facial features and body features of the results to portray something that might not be attainable.”

Learn more about how plastic and reconstructive surgery at OSF Saint Anthony can help you.

About Author: Ken Harris

Ken Harris is a writing coordinator for the Marketing & Communications division of OSF HealthCare.

He has a bachelor's in journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and worked as a daily newspaper reporter for four years before leaving the field and eventually finding his way to OSF HealthCare.

In his free time, Ken likes reading, fly fishing, hanging out with his dog and generally pestering his lovely, patient wife.

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Categories: Mental Health