The "selfie culture" is putting so much pressure on beauty standards it's driving many young people to seek cosmetic procedures, according to plastic surgeons.
With almost half a million followers, KyRhys Devoe, known as Tuggzie to his fans, makes his living through Instagram. Like others in his generation of social media influencers, he's on a constant quest for physical perfection.
"We all want to have smooth skin, we all want to have high cheekbones, we all want to have frozen faces, we just want to look perfect," said Devoe.
Devoe spends at least an hour editing each selfie, using apps like Facetune and AirBrush. He's also part of a new trend which is seeing the Snapchat-selfie-look spill over into real life. "I want to be a Bratz doll, a living Bratz doll," said Devoe. "A doll's perfect ... I just want to look like my actual photos on Instagram, I want to look selfie-ready all the time."
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Devoe even gets regular cosmetic procedures done to look more like his edited selfies, "I don't want to have any lines. So, I just feel like i want to be like a Facetuned version of myself." He has had filler injected into his smile lines and his under eye area.
Devoe is not alone. Leading plastic surgeon Dr. Dirk Kremer said he has noticed his clientele getting younger and younger, and edited selfies play a big role in what people ask him for. "Most of them come with a phone and show me pictures saying, 'That's how I get most likes and followers and could we do that in reality. I'm tired of editing the picture,'" said Kremer.
Kremer said that before social media, clients would mainly compare themselves to celebrities, "Now, you see the girl next door who looks amazing on the Instagram photo with all the filters they apply. Suddenly the competition is much, much higher ... Young people, if they want to have a very successful account, they post constantly. They wake up, picture ... They go to work, picture."
This obsession with personal appearance that selfie culture encourages may have darker implications for mental health. Bruce Clark is a consultant psychiatrist at Maudsley Hospital, and he said, "In those people who have that psychological vulnerability, it can be particularly concerning. They are constantly bombarded with images and constantly referencing their own image in a way that was not seen before."
At its most extreme, this fixation on appearance can manifest in a mental health condition known as body dysmorphic disorder, or BDD. For people like Alanah Bagwell, BDD can be completely debilitating: "I rarely left the house, I was stuck in a dark room, curtains closed, sleeping most of the day. I wouldn't let my family see me, they'd have to bring food to the door. If I did have to leave the room to see my family I'd have to spend about four hours applying makeup and even then I'd have a panic attack leaving the room," said Bagwell.
Bagwell says although selfies didn't cause her illness, the hours she spent taking pictures of herself exacerbated her condition. "I felt like I looked so disgusting and deformed and monstrous that I just wished to be normal. So I'd post selfies in the hopes of this sort of reassurance from other people. And when you hate the way you look, that can lead to you taking hundreds before you find the perfect one," said Bagwell.
Our collective obsession with social media can be a very innocent and fun experience. But we are only just beginning to understand the potential mental health impact on the "selfie generation."
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