Summary: There are plenty of news reports that might make you wonder if social media can lead to more plastic surgery among patients. That’s not necessarily an accurate statement—there are a lot of ways to parse motivations for plastic surgery. But how much power does social media have over how much we care about how we look?
The Power of Facebook and Plastic Surgery
Facebook has a lot of power, but can social media lead to more plastic surgery? Well, the question is admittedly a little simplistic and perhaps a little misleading. Because it’s not necessarily the social media platform itself that is leading to more plastic surgery. It’s not as though Facebook as an entity is encouraging you to get a tummy tuck.
Instead, Facebook and other social media platforms are such powerful motivators because they allow for the easy sharing of pictures. And pictures are where the power is. Because, inevitably, you tend to see pictures of yourself. And you probably see quite a few pictures of yourself.
There are plenty of ways where that’s a good thing, but the prevalence of these pictures can exacerbate self-conscious feelings you already have. Does social media lead to more plastic surgery? Maybe, but not in the way you think.
What Do You See In Your Pictures?
We’ve written before about the power of the selfie, but it’s worth returning to because of its role in social media. Selfies, for those who don’t know, are pictures that you take of yourself, usually for the express purpose of posting on social media. Selfies are a relatively novel development, made possible because of how easy it is to take such pictures with smart devices.
And if you’ve been paying any attention at all you know that selfies are pretty much everywhere these days. But selfies are only a symptom of a broader cultural trend: taking pictures of everything. From food to friends, it seems that we snap pictures of just about everything we do—and then post those pictures to some form of social media site.
In other words, we get our pictures taken a lot more than we used to. And that means we see those pictures a lot more than we used to. When there’s something that’s bugging us—something about our bodies we don’t like—that makes it a lot more difficult to hide from.
Some examples of this might include:
- People who don’t like their noses—but see them all the time in pictures
- People who feel as though they are aging too quickly—and always notice a new wrinkle or two in shared pictures
- People who are always “covered up” in pictures—maybe you’re too self-conscious to wear short sleeves because of excess skin
You can see how seeing these pictures can drive home a feeling of self-consciousness. And when that feeling of self-consciousness is difficult to escape, plastic surgery or cosmetic surgery becomes much more appealing.
Filters to the Rescue?
To be sure, this is one reason why filters exist. Many camera apps and social media services offer filters of one kind or another. Filters, essentially, allow you to make post-production choices about your picture (or your selfie). And in that way, filers can be incredibly useful—they can hide blemishes, even out your skin tone, make you look more fit.
Some post-production work can even make your nose look a little straighter, for example. But filters can only take you so far, and many people who go on to be plastic surgery patients can frustrated at the process. After all, it can be incredibly time consuming to have to alter every single one of your photos before you post them.
And you have no control over the quality of photos that other people post. So that one feature that makes you feel self-conscious could be quite prominent in a photo that your friend tags you in. And that’s one reason why some people don’t find filters to be particularly effective.
But there’s another edge to this sword. Seeing how you look in filters could create a kind of new goal for yourself. Maybe you like what you see so much that you want to recreate that in real life.
What’s fair to say is that there’s certainly a great deal of social pressure to look a certain way. Some of that is pressure we put on ourselves (in a manner of speaking). You want to feel confident and amazing—and one way people gain that feeling is to control (to a certain degree) what they look like and how they appear on social media.
In other words, social media is the public sphere. For some people, achieving the right look means rhinoplasty. For other people, there’s no sweat. But seeing yourself in the public arena can have an impact on how you feel. Social media simply makes you more visible. And if there’s a case for how social media leads to more plastic surgery, I think that’s the case to make.