“Over 30 per cent of my clients come with visual references of social media influencers to demonstrate the look they’d like,” award-winning cosmetic doctor Dr Esho tells us. He specialises in non-surgical procedures using Botox and dermal fillers, with famous faces such as Love Island contestants on the receiving end of his needle. “We have a large group of patients between the ages of 25 and 35 who are most connected to social media trends.” Many are concerned with recreating a more filtered version of themselves in reality; the ideal often being a highly-symmetrical, contoured doll-like look.
While looking like what we perceive to be ‘our best’ may be a natural part of living in our society, social media is propagating and accentuating unrealistic expectations of beauty, globally renowned lecturer and leader in pioneering research on Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), Professor Marcos Sforza, tells Bazaar.
The expert aesthetic surgeon and scientific director at MyBreast Cosmetic Surgeryexplains that with advancements in photo-editing software, the easily influenced amongst us “are at risk of losing touch with reality, internalising the expectation that we are supposed to look like a perfect, filtered, edited version of ourselves all the time”.
That’s exactly what Dr Esho is seeing in his chair. “There’s now more of a focus on a social media ideal of beauty (that is, how you look on your social platform) rather than how you look in real life,” he explains, although in many ways to achieve this in reality would be impossible.
Of course, the seemingly candid portraits and casual selfies filling our feeds are not often as they seem. “The social media ideal is usually a combination of non-surgical treatments, make-up, lighting and filters,” Dr Esho says. While some of this is obvious, some – like with ‘good’ cosmetic work – really isn’t obvious.
Naturally, when some of us who aren’t being photographed (or taking selfies) for a living struggle to achieve anywhere near the perceived perfection in pictures of those we follow, feelings of inadequacy can flood. While taking pictures of yourself isn’t bad, and can even boost self-confidence, “obsessing over the way you look in a 2D image can trigger symptoms of poor body image,” Professor Sforza confirms. Additionally, new stats from the Mental Health Foundation found that 22 per cent of adults and 40 per cent of teens say images on social media cause them to worry about their body image.
Beyond a case of dissatisfaction or ‘compare and despair’ syndrome, selfies and social media can cause concerns about how we look to become real mental health issues.