A recent report suggests that there is a direct correlation between the filters used in social media applications such as Snapchat and requests for cosmetic surgery. Notably, many people are specifically asking surgeons to make them look like more like an edited version of themselves.
Dubbed "Snapchat dysmorphia," the trend has seen a spike in the number of surgeons receiving inquiries about changing a person's appearance to match filters used in applications such as Facetune and Snapchat. The report notes that these apps can make skin appear smoother, change bone structure, and make eyes and lips bigger. One could argue that this marks another step in the shift of how we perceive beauty; surrounded by perfected images of people, how we understand beauty — and how we understand ourselves — has changed, moving further towards something that is unrealistic and unachievable. These expectations have already demonstrated an effect on society's mental health.
Interestingly, the report notes that, until recently, perfected photographs were the domain of models and celebrities who were subjected to a retoucher's skill with Photoshop before being displayed to the world through advertising and editorials. Like many aspects of technology, this has been made available to anyone with a phone, a development that has prompted a rise in the number of people suffering from body dysmorphic disorder (BDD).
BDD goes beyond insecurity and is recognized as a person's excessive preoccupation with how they look to the point of obsession. Speaking to the Huffington Post, Renee Engeln, a psychology professor from Northwestern University, explained that if being immersed in a culture that keeps delivering you images of beautiful, Photoshopped celebrities, there's now "this daily comparison of your real self to this intentional or unintentional fake self that you present on social media." It probably doesn't help that phone cameras are not flattering, as discussed previously.
The research ties in with other studies that are demonstrating the influence of changes in visual culture to society's mental health. Depression is increasing among young people with more evidence suggesting a correlation between social media and low self-esteem, and only a few days ago there were reports in the U.K. that the number of teenage girls being admitted to hospital as a result of self-harm has almost doubled in the last 20 years.