The Desire to Shift our Appearance is Growing

By Brenda Odria

I always talk about social media’s impact on beauty standards so, I know the topic is well worn but I decided to research why I want lip fillers and botox so bad. I’d say most of my peers desire some sort of cosmetic procedure and dream about what they could look like. Some of them edit their pictures to look that way using things like Facetune, the widely popular editing app. You could say we’re insecure but I mean most people edit their pictures and when you think about it. Why do we edit? Why can’t we appreciate a picture for what it is? When I hear these questions I get angry because there is nothing wrong with editing and some people just love being elitist about it. Back to the topic, people are getting surgery younger than ever before and according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, 66,347 cosmetic surgical procedures were performed on people between the ages of 13 and 19 in 2016, a nearly 3% increase from 2015.

Now, 3% may not seem like that much but it is still an increase attributed to our generation wanting to change their appearance. What has changed and is it going to continue to increase? My guess is hell yeah.

In “Cosmetic Procedures: Ethical Issues” a report by Nuffield Council of Bioethics, they investigate ethics in cosmetic procedures in relation to socio-cultural contexts like consumer culture. They state that cosmetic procedures are growing in popularity, we knew that but it’s nice to have scientists back us up,

“we were compelled to think about the reach and limits of consumer culture, the medicalization of the body and beauty, the ubiquity of social media, issues of mental health and body image – especially amongst young people, and the contours of discrimination and prejudice”

This excerpt emphasizes that this increase is largely due to the relationship between social media and body image. Suggesting that the effects of selfie culture on self-perception are damaging. The author also asserts that this investigation is necessary now because of the socio-cultural climate because individuals invest more in their appearance. The report goes on to outline how,

“Rising levels of ‘body dissatisfaction’ are associated with factors including:

  • The huge growth in the use of social media
  • Increased use of the rating of images of the self and the body, for example through social media ‘likes’, and through self-monitoring apps and games
  • The popularity of celebrity culture, ‘airbrushed’ images, and makeover shows
  • Economic and social trends such as people retiring later, while having to compete in cultures that value youth and youthful appearance.”

In an exaggerated conclusion, social media rules over our generations’ psyche because we base our self worth over our Instagram personas #sorelatable. Remember that day Instagram was down? Did you mean, the apocalypse?

“Advertising and marketing widely reinforce the belief that beauty is correlated with happiness and success. Women, in particular, are surrounded by the message that they have a duty to ‘make the best’ of themselves.”

Not surprising that women are particularly subject to these aspects of social media culture if beauty equals happiness then obviously comparing ourselves to other Instagram personas is just depressing. People keep asking if I want lip fillers because of Kylie Jenner, maybe a bit subconsciously, but mostly I just wanna be hotter. Later in the report, I got the answer to my question

“Reasons for wanting cosmetic procedures:

  • Wanting to look younger;
  • Aiming to achieve ‘normality ’, often defined with reference to peer group preferences regarding appearance, rather than in response to disfigurement;
  • Hoping to improve self -esteem, or responding to body dissatisfaction;
  • Hoping to achieve, or maintain, professional success; and
  • Rejecting or conforming to social and cultural ideals.”

Through research, I learned that the term “Snapchat Dysmorphia” is a thing because of filters that distort our view of ourselves. If you use that dog filter every day and then look in the mirror, it’s just disappointing. Social media is a platform that can be used to spread positive ideas of body positivity, but the dark side is that it also alters our psyche to rely on our rating, through likes, in comparison to other people. It provides an opportunity for our self-esteem issues to develop and we fall in love with our virtual selves, subsequently resenting our reality.