Everyone with internet access these days is likely very familiar with the doe-eyed, glossy sparkle of Snapchat filters. With the app’s relatively advanced face recognition technology, users can turn themselves into any number of creatures, from a dog, to a squirrel, to a mustachioed man. However according to plastic surgeons, these filters are not all fun and games. They start to become a problem when they interfere with people’s real-life perceptions of themselves and their body images.
A report authored by three dermatologists and published on JAMA Network describes the potential pitfalls of excess use of filters such as the ones provided by Snapchat, writing
“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 term “Snapchat Dysmorphia” has become a popular term to describe the phenomenon. And the negative impacts extend beyond the realm of mental health. Feelings of inadequacy caused by filters have led people to seek out real-world cosmetic surgeries in order to make them appear more like they do on the app.
Crystal, a young mother who spoke with BBC for an interview on the subject, describes the discomfort she felt when using Snapchat because of the way it altered her appearance. She says,
“I couldn’t help noticing the way the Snapchat filter changed my face. It enhanced my chin, contoured my cheekbones, and straightened out my nose, which was something I had always been self-conscious about.”
Doctor David Mabrie, who met with Crystal, actually deems the desire to appear more like how one does when “filtered” to be an improvement on past trends, such as patients who showed up with images of celebrities they wished to emulate. Mabrie writes,
“I prefer working off a real photo of someone, because they have a sense of what they might look like with fillers or Botox. They don’t have an unrealistic expectation that they’re going magically to transform into Kylie Jenner.”
Regardless of whether or not this new beauty craze is the lesser of two evils, one thing is clear: younger women, especially those below the age of thirty, have been seeking out cosmetic surgery at higher and higher rates—and while Snapchat filters are undeniably cute, they’re actually part of the problem.