What is a SELFIE?
This word, first used in an Australian internet forum on September 13, 2002, is used to describe an often unflattering photograph, typically taken by the subject either with a camera held at arm’s length or in a mirror, and often shared on social media. It was the Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year in 2013, and was added to Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary’s 11th edition.
Selfies Driving Increased Plastic Surgery
Believe it or not, according to a new study by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS), the rise of the selfie is having a huge impact on the facial plastic surgery industry. The study showed that one in three facial plastic surgeons surveyed saw an increase in requests for procedures as a direct result of patients being more self-aware of their appearance in social media selfies. In 2013, more than half of surveyed facial plastic surgeons (58 percent) saw an increase in cosmetic surgery or injectables in those under the age of 30, and this may be due in part to social media.
Is Social Media Making Us More Self-Conscious?
Many social media platforms, including Instagram, GroupMe, Snapchat and the iPhone app Selfie.im, are image-based. Our presence on these platforms forces us to see our own image repeatedly, and to look at our image with a more self-critical eye than ever before. Gone are the days of a morning farewell to ourselves in the mirror and a quick passing glance at our reflection in the Bergdorf Goodman window during the day. We are now forced to gaze at, and compare, our self-selfies and the selfies of others on a constant basis. We are more aware than ever that our photos are often the only first impressions available to prospective friends, colleagues, romantic interests and employers, and we want to put our best selfie-face forward.
In the article “Why Selfies Sometimes Look Weird to Their Subjects”, Nolan Feeney points out how the selfie can be a set up for disappointment.
Our Mirror Image Has Turned On Us
Whether or not a selfie is reversed after being shot is a major factor in how we perceive our photo. If you’ve used multiple mobile apps to take pictures of yourself, you’ve probably noticed that some, like Snapchat, show you the view of yourself that you would see in a mirror, and that others, like GroupMe, flip the image horizontally and save your selfie the way others would see you. We are used to seeing our image in the mirror, and we’ve grown accustomed to our mirror faces, and familiarity breeds liking. When our mirror image is flipped (this is what others see), it often looks strange and less attractive to us.
Our Faces Are Not Symmetrical Works of Art
Part of that is because everyone’s face is asymmetric. As photographer Julian Wolkenstein illustrates with his portraits, which duplicate each side of a face to create strikingly different versions of the same person, everyone’s left and right side is different.
Close Proximity Breeds Distortion
The close proximity of our faces to our smartphone lenses makes matters worse. Selfies exaggerate certain features, such as the nose. The parts of your face that are closer to the camera seem larger than other features in comparison to non-selfie photographs, where the distance from the camera to your face is longer and has more of a flattening effect on your face. Some people describe this as the “fisheye effect” of smartphone lenses. Bottom line? You don’t really look like that!
Do It for You, Not Your Selfie
I often have patients ask me, “What do I need?” with reference to Botox, facial fillers or plastic surgery. As I tell all my patients, you are the judge and jury as to what you “need” (and by “need” I mean “want”) in terms of cosmetic surgery. If you do decide to take the plunge, make sure to select a board-certified surgeon who specializes in plastic surgery of the face, head and neck, and make sure you’re doing it for yourself, and not just for your selfie.