Are selfies sparking more plastic surgery?

Instagram star @jenselter, who has 1.3M followers.

Instagram star @jenselter, who has 1.3M followers.

After being crowned word of the year in 2013, it was only a matter of time until ‘selfie’ became a business opportunity.

According to a survey conducted by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, selfies are behind a boom in young people (well, young people in the United States anyway) seeking plastic surgery. 

The survey, among a ‘select group of the organization’s 2,700 members’ found that the desire to look hot in a selfie has been great for business. 

Kim Kardashian sparks 'butt selfie' trend.

Kim Kardashian sparks 'butt selfie' trend. Photo: Instagram

One in three facial plastic surgeons surveyed said that self-awareness due to social media had led to an increase in requests for procedures. People’s use of photo sharing platforms contributed to a 10 per cent increase in nose jobs in 2013 as compared to 2012. 


And it’s not just noses that are being surgically enhanced for the sake of Instagram. There was also a 7 per cent increase in hair transplants and a 6 per cent increase in requests for eyelid surgery in 2013 compared with the previous year.

President of the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Edward Farrior, said "Social platforms like Instagram, Snapchat and the iPhone app, which are solely image based, force patients to hold a microscope up to their own image and often look at it with a more self-critical eye than ever before."

Rihanna's Instagram.

Rihanna's Instagram.

If the good doctor has concerns about any broader social or psychological implications of selfies, they were drowned out by the sound of KA-CHING!

"These images are often the first impressions young people put out there to prospective friends, romantic interests and employers, and our patients want to put their best face forward," he said.

The survey also found that the pervasiveness of social media is driving down the age that people start having plastic surgery, with 58 per cent of the surveyed members reporting an increase in cosmetic surgery and ‘injectables’ in patients under 30.

It’s hardly a surprise that social media is increasing body dissatisfaction. A 2011 study of 248 girls aged 12–19 by researchers at the University of Haifa found that girls who spent more time on Facebook were more likely to suffer from a range of conditions, including bulimia, anorexia, negative physical self-image and have more of an urge to be on a weight-loss diet.

Social media is perhaps even more pernicious than mainstream media in promoting body insecurity. While we can console ourselves that celebrities and models in advertisements aren’t ‘real women’ because they’re Photoshopped, lit, made up, and have a team of dietitians, cooks, trainers and stylist, it’s harder to resist competition and comparison when it’s with your peers in your Instagram or Facebook newsfeed.

We tend to compare ourselves to those around us. For example, when we think about how rich or poor we are, we don’t compare ourselves to Bill Gates. We compare ourselves to friends, family and co-workers. It’s likely that the same holds for body image. While celebrities and models are out of our league, social media friends and acquaintances are the marker by which we judge our own appearance. 

It’s tempting to see this trend — if indeed that’s what it is — as nothing more than individual choice. If people are dissatisfied with their appearance and they have the time and money, surely they should be able to do whatever it takes to get the perfect selfie.

There is, however, another more disturbing finding in the survey of the cosmetic surgeons: bullying is another reason why the nip and tuck business is booming. According to the survey results, "most surgeons surveyed report children and teens are undergoing plastic surgery as a result of being bullied (69 percent) rather than to prevent being bullied (31 percent)."

Perhaps this is why faking a photo with technology is no longer adequate and people are instead seeking out more ‘authentic’ and permanent forms of fakeness — fakery that can only be achieved in the cosmetic surgeon’s office.

It’s a messed up world when you wish people would content themselves with Photoshopping their selfies rather than resorting to ‘injectables’ and the surgeon’s scalpel.

But here we are: discussing the best method to look hotter on Facebook or Instagram instead of questioning the insanity of the standards of beauty and the beauty imperative in the first place.


Kasey Edwards is a best-selling author and writer.