Teens are being tempted into plastic surgery and hair transplants because their filtered Snapchat selfies have made them unhappy with their natural looks.
Teens are being tempted into plastic surgery and hair transplants because their filtered Snapchat selfies have made them unhappy with their natural looks.

How social media is making teens want plastic surgery

Snapchat dysmorphia is making teenagers consider plastic surgery in a bid to look like their filtered social media selfies, a new study shows.

Researchers at Monash University found boys and girls as young as 16 are wanting to get nose jobs, hair transplants and other procedures so their appearance matches their doctored online images.

Gemma Sharp and her colleagues Brady Robards and Claire Moran conducted interviews with 34 boys and girls aged 16 to 18 to gain an in-depth understanding of selfie-taking practices in young people.

Lead author Dr Sharp said that "changing your appearance so easily through photo filters at a young age provided an unrealistic sense that such changes can be easily achieved in real life. Using filters also reconfirms that their natural appearance isn't good enough".

 

Maddie and Lucy, both 14. Picture: Tony Gough
Maddie and Lucy, both 14. Picture: Tony Gough

"Most profound were the influence of Snapchat and Instagram. There are a wide range of filters used to remove blemishes, minimise bags under eyes, slim down noses and drastically change appearance," she said.

"They also widen and brighten eyes, plump up lips - there's no end to the changes.

"Some of the young people we spoke to were considering getting work done and the main barrier was finances," Dr Sharp said.

Survey participant "Alice" aged 18 said she was "interested in getting a nose job … I guess with modelling and doing photo shoots just seeing a side profile of my face".

"Joey", aged 16 said that in a couple of his photos he feels "as though my hairline goes back a bit and I want to bring it forward a bit (through a hair transplant)".

Dr Sharp said this was "the effect of Snapchat dysmorphia - it makes people want to look like their filtered selfies".

The research will be presented at the Swinburne University Body Image and Related Disorders Conference on Friday.

Other research from Flinders University released this week shows children as young as 12 and 13 in years seven and eight at school are engaging in disordered eating as a result of their social media use.

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Dr Simon Wilksch and his team studied 996 children and found 51 per cent of the girls and 45 per cent of the boys are adhering to strict exercise regimes and skipping meals. Those who had the highest Snapchat and Instagram use had more thoughts and behaviours about disordered eating. "These relationships occur at a younger age than previously investigated," Dr Wilksch said.

Interested 13-25 year olds can confidentially register for a further study on the topic by emailing mediasmart@flinders.edu.au

susan.obrien@news.com.au