Dubai patients seek surgery to look like filtered selfies
Visual platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat deliver the tools that allow users to earn approval for their appearance.- Alamy Image
Dubai - Photos receiving a positive or negative rating on social media sites leads to immense pressure to look perfect.
Plastic surgeons in Dubai are turning away residents who want surgery to look like the heavily edited or filtered versions of themselves as posted on social media. Surgeons told Khaleej Times that these patients require "psychological help" and not plastic surgery.
The comments follow a growing number of patients in Dubai who are seeking plastic surgery to achieve the look of their filtered selfies from Snapchat and Instagram.
In August, a new study by the Boston University of Medicine took the Internet by storm when it revealed that teen patients were requesting doctors to make them look like their heavily filtered selfies on Snapchat - a medical condition plastic surgeons are calling 'Snapchat dysmorphia'.
Some Dubai residents also seem to be hit by the 'condition', with plastic surgeons reporting that they are seeing a growing number of patients requesting this look.
Dr Faisal Salim, a consultant plastic and reconstruction surgeon at the Dubai Cosmetic Surgery clinic, told Khaleej Times that he gets about 10 patients looking for this type of service each month.
"Visual platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat deliver the tools that allow users to earn approval for their appearance and compare themselves to others. The most vulnerable users, researchers say, are the ones who spend most of their time posting, commenting on and comparing themselves to photos," Dr Salim said.
Free applications have made it easier for "selfie-holics" to edit their photos any way they like, including by covering up pimples, whitening teeth and airbrushing, he added.
"All this provides an illusion of control. Unfortunately the rise of social media tools to help alter 'selfies' can lead to patients wanting to match this ideal surgically," Dr Salim said.
When he does receive patients who want to turn their filtered selfies into reality, Dr Salim said he makes sure he assesses the associated risks.
"As a plastic surgeon, it is my responsibility to identify patients who are psychologically vulnerable and equate low self-esteem and avoidance behaviour to perceived physical imperfections. In particular, I stratify patients risk in relation to body dysmorphia. This is a mental disorder characterised by the obsessive idea that some aspect of one's own body part or appearance is severely flawed and warrants exceptional measures to hide or fix their dysmorphic part on their person. These patients require psychological help and not surgery. It is the duty of an ethical plastic surgeon to refer vulnerable patients to the appropriate healthcare professionals," he said.
Another plastic surgeon in Dubai, Dr Matteo Vigo, said he receives about five to six patients each month who are willing to go under the knife to achieve the filtered selfie look.
He said he encourages his patients to "be more realistic" and that "life is not social media".
"I am seeing quite a few patients asking for improvements due to poor self-esteem ... (caused) ... especially by the Instagram factor. They are asking for some procedures to look better in their selfies. So, they always look at a lot of details in their face or body and want them fixed," Dr Vigo said.
"I always try to discuss the problem with them and see if it is really the case to treat them. But I am quite straightforward and send some patients away without touching them because they don't need my help. It is, however, difficult to address the problem of the psychological issue since patients usually refuse to see this aspect and will continue to shop around until they find an accommodating doctor who will try to help them out. They will, maybe, be happy for a while but will come back for another small issue."
Why some teens want to edit themselves>To boost self-confidence, self-esteem and self-image: The world is quick to judge and people feel better if they look how the world wants to see them. Going through these procedures gives them immense satisfaction and assurance that they are accepted and they look how they believe the world/society wants them to look.
>To return back in time: Often, people feel their outward appearance does not reflect how they are as a person or how they feel on the inside. Most often, this conflict arises as they grow older; their looks are changing but they feel the same.
>To feel like a celebrity: This happens mostly when there is a false sense of need to look like a celebrity to feel like one. They fail to understand that for celebrities, it is an extension of their job to look a particular way. This happens more commonly in people who are struggling with issues related to self-doubt, self-esteem and self-worth.
>Vanity: This could be merely for self-improvement or to make a partner or a significant other happy
>To be accepted: Mostly to feel a sense of belonging, to feel special and feel loved.
Factors encouraging the trend>Photos receiving a positive or negative rating on social media sites leads to immense pressure to look perfect
>Popularity and a sense of perfection emulated by the celebrity culture
>Photoshopped and airbrushed images give people a sense of perfect look and a perfect lifestyle
>The overall subtle and soft pressure from the societal mantra: To look young and to look good is desirable
(As told by Sailaja Menon, licensed counseling psychologist, Lifeworks Holistic Counseling Centre)