The age of mass media dealt a blow to many people’s self-esteem as they began seeing stylized versions of actors and models in films, print, and television. The presentation of flawless, edited images of people created unattainable beauty standards damaging to people’s self-esteem, especially that of young women.
Now, in the age of the selfie, a new disorder has emerged: Snapchat dysmorphia. People are suffering from low self-esteem because they want their appearance to mirror their selfies. Photo filters like Facetune or those found on Snapchat and Instagram allow people to trim their waistlines, sculpt their facial features, and alter their complexions. So now, when they look in the mirror, they’re disappointed in their actual selves.
The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) recently reported on the phenomenon.
“The pervasiveness of these filtered images can take a toll on one’s self-esteem, make one feel inadequate for not looking a certain way in the real world, and may even act as a trigger and lead to body dysmorphic disorder (BDD),” the report said.
People with Snapchat dysmorphia are seeking help for the disorder, but it’s not from a psychologist. According to the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, in 2017, 55% of surgeons reported seeing patients who wanted procedures to improve how they looked in selfies, versus 42% in 2016.
To push back against the damaging effects of selfie filters and call attention to the JAMA report, journalist Katie Couric posted a selfie on Instagram without any filters or makeup. She also had a sore throat and felt miserable.
“An article in the latest issue of JAMA says plastic surgeons are increasingly getting requests to make people look as good as they do in their selfies after they edit them,” Couric wrote on her post. “Researchers call it ‘Snapchat dysmorphia’ and they say it is having a negative impact on self-esteem and can even trigger body dysmorphic disorder, which is classified as a mental illness. Clearly, I am bucking that trend. I also have a terrible sore throat. #happymonday.”
Couric’s photo was a fun way to call attention to Snapchat dysmorphia and a brave move for a woman in the spotlight. Perhaps if more people posted real photos of themselves like Couric, we could slow down the ever-increasing expectation for everyone to look perfect online.
Share image by Joella Marano/Flickr