Selfies distort young adults’ perception of their own appearance

April 28, 2022
Selfies distort young adults’ perception of their own appearance

Plastic surgeons facing an uptick in requests from young patients may want to look into how “selfies” play a part: a University of Texas Southwestern (UTSW) Medical Center plastic surgeon revealed that “young people are coming to plastic surgeons to fix problems that don’t exist, using selfies as their only guide.” Phone cameras are known to distort images, especially when photographs are taken at close range – selfies may be the drive behind rhinoplasty (surgery to alter the appearance of the nose).

UTSW Associate Professor of Plastic Surgery Dr. Bardia Amirlak and colleagues showed how selfies compared to wide-angle photographs in a study involving 23 women and seven men. Each participant had three photographs taken, one each from 12 inches and 18 inches away with a cellphone to simulate selfies taken with a bent or straight arm, and a third from 5 feet with a digital single-lens reflex camera, typically used in plastic surgery clinics.

The photographs were taken in the same sitting under standard lighting conditions, however, the two selfies showed significant distortions.

The nose, on average, appeared 6.4% longer on 12-inch selfies and 4.3% longer on 18-inch selfies compared to the standard clinical photograph. There was also a 12% decrease in the length of the chin on 12-inch selfies, leading to a substantial 17% increase in the ratio of nose-to-chin length. Selfies also made the base of the nose appear wider relative to the width of the face.

The participants’ awareness of these differences was reflected by how they rated the photos when compared side by side.

These distorted images can affect how selfie takers see themselves as well as their neurodevelopmental processing, said Dr. Carrie McAdams, Associate Professor of Psychiatry at UTSW. “[…] selfies emphasise the physical aspects of oneself in making those comparisons and have been associated with lower self-esteem, lower mood, and increased body dissatisfaction – many changes in our society, including selfies, social media, and isolation from COVID-19, have led to escalating rates of mental health problems in this age group, including depression, anxiety, addiction, and eating disorders,” she said.

Read: Patients have worse perception of own surgical scars than observers do

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Category: Education, Features

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