How is social media & ‘selfies’ transforming perceptions and acceptance of plastic surgery?
In late June this year, Johns Hopkins researchers published a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Facial Plastic Surgery that reported “increased investment in the use of social media platforms was associated with increased consideration of cosmetic surgery”.
The participants who reported using applications such as YouTube, Tinder and Snapchat photograph filters, had an increased acceptance of cosmetic surgery. Essentially, individuals who spend more time and energy on how they present themselves on social media are more likely to be open to cosmetic surgery in real life.
Social media appears to create an almost competitive aesthetic undercurrent that places incredible pressure on our youth today. Validation of self-worth is a prominent motivation for people to download and use these appearance altering applications, likely contributing to the higher acceptance of plastic surgery.
Is this a good thing?
These applications can assist patients in showing plastic surgeons exactly what they want. Patients can edit photos of themselves, filtered to have slimmer faces, bigger breasts or flatter stomachs, and ask surgeons to make them resemble their filtered selves. This is helpful as it provides greater understanding of patient concerns and goals.
But can this warp a patient’s realistic expectations?
Everyone wants a flawless selfie shot that shows an ageless face, but these high expectations and demands may not be met. There is a very real possibility that your plastic surgeon explains to you that your desired results are not achievable. A good surgeon will do this unreservedly and transparently. You should never feel that your surgeon is trying to ‘sell’ a procedure to you.
How can this study benefit surgeons?
Not only can the JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery study help doctors better understand their patients, but it can also provide information on which social media outlets are filled with potential new patients. But perhaps, more cynically, it could show physicians which social networks are the most fertile ground for advertising.
Dr Rostam D Farhadieh
BSc(Med)Hons, MBBS, MD, EBOPRASF, FRACS(Plast), FRCS(Plast)
Plastic & Reconstructive Surgeon
Clinical Senior Lecturer
University of Sydney Medical School
Australian National University Medical School