From the flower crown to that one that makes you look like an adorable baby deer, Snapchat’s filters are famously flattering. But if you’ve ever shifted your phone mid-selfie and saw the filter disappear—revealing your normal human face on the screen instead—you may have thought to yourself, I wish I looked like a Snapchat filter in real life.
This is a real and increasingly common way of thinking, according to the plastic surgeons who authored a recent article in the Journal of the American Medical Association Facial Plastic Surgery. For some people, the authors say, this preoccupation with looking as flawless IRL as they do in their filtered social media snaps has become so extreme, experts place it on the body dysmorphia spectrum.
Body dysmorphia (BDD) is a mental health condition (and a type of obsessive compulsive disorder) in which a person becomes obsessed with thoughts about perceived flaws. “For someone with BDD, their entire life’s balance hangs on whether they look okay or whether they’ve camouflaged their perceived flaw appropriately,” Tom Hildebrandt, PsyD, chief of the Division of Eating and Weight Disorders at Mount Sinai Health System in New York City, explained to Health in a previous interview.
The JAMA article dubs this latest version of the disorder “Snapchat dysmorphia,” making the case that apps like Snapchat and FaceTune are contributing to new unattainable standards of beauty.
In the past, the authors write, patients would show up to their plastic surgeon’s office with photos of celebrities that had been edited to perfection in magazine spreads. Now, they say, patients want to look “like filtered versions of themselves instead, with fuller lips, bigger eyes, or a thinner nose.”
The numbers appear to back this up. According to recent data, 55% of surgeons report that patients are looking for plastic surgery to improve the way they look in social media selfies, up 42% from 2015.
“This is an alarming trend,” the authors write, “because those filtered selfies often present an unattainable look and are blurring the line of reality and fantasy for these patients.” Most at risk are those who already have BDD and adolescents. “These groups may more severely internalize this beauty standard,” they state.