When Snapchat launched its filter feature in 2016, social media as we know it completely changed. Everyday the faces we grew to know and love became morphed in to everything from an adorable puppy to a doe-eyed deer. Cute face-augmented filters might seem harmless but these filters have now gone on to create an acute form of mental illness that many doctors have called “Snapchat Dysmorphia”.
According to three dermatologists from the Boston University School of Medicine and Boston Medical Center, several patients are “seeking out cosmetic surgery to look like filtered versions of themselves,” as opposed to seeking inspiration from celebrities, like most people have in the past.
The obsession with Snapchat filters mainly comes from their digital, face-enhancing abilities. The dog filter smoothens out your jaw for example, while the flower crown filter gives the appearance of bigger eyes and a slimmer face.
In a new report in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery, doctors state “This is an alarming trend because those filtered selfies often present an unattainable look and are blurring the line of reality and fantasy for these patients.”
The term “Snapchat Dysmorphia” is derived from body dysmorphic disorder—a mental health condition characterized by one’s obsession with their appearance. “The pervasiveness of these filtered images can take a toll on one’s self-esteem, making one feel inadequate for not looking a certain way in the real world, and may even act as a trigger or lead to body dysmorphic disorder,” reads the report.
Based on the results of the 2017 American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery survey, 55 percent of surgeons reported a trend of seeing patients who sought surgery for the purpose of looking better in their selfies—a 13 percent increase from previous years.
Snapchat isn’t the only application changing people’s perceptions of beauty. Photo-editing apps like Facetune—which allows you to remove blemishes, smooth out your complexion and even rework the proportions of your body parts—can also take a dangerous toll on one’s mental health.