Mar 23, 2018

Selfies vs. Self Esteem

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By Chelsea Campbell

If you’ve ever snapped a selfie, only to look at the picture and wonder when your nose grew so much larger, there’s good news and bad news. The bad news is that it’s not just your imagination -- your nose does in fact appear larger than normal in that photo. The good news? In reality, your nose hasn’t actually suddenly hit a growth spurt; it’s an unfortunate effect that comes from a combination of the camera lens and the unusually short distance between the phone and your face. If your selfie habit has led you to think about the possibility of a nose job, you may want to think again.

The Selfie vs. Self Esteem
The selfie is no stranger to our culture. Want to show your social media followers your new haircut? Snap a selfie. Just buy a new car? You know what to do. See a celebrity in public? If you didn’t get a selfie, did it even happen? Because we are saturated in the phenomenon of constantly taking pictures of ourselves, we have conditioned ourselves to be especially aware of our physical insecurities. For many people, this insecurity might be their nose, and taking selfies isn’t helping. According to a recent study from the JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery journal, taking selfies from a distance of 12 inches or less from the face makes the nose width look up to 30% larger and the tip of the nose look 7% bigger, resulting in a noticeable difference between how the nose looks in a photo and how it looks in real life.

JAMA study coauthor and plastic surgeon Boris Paskhover explains, “If the camera point is closer to something that projects out, like your nose, it is going to make everything that is closer to that camera look bigger compared to the rest of the face.”

The standard distance that photographers use when shooting subjects is 5 feet, and this gives viewers the most realistic dimensions and the most accurate picture of what they actually look like.  When the wide, albeit small, lens of the camera phone is too close to your face (too close meaning 12 inches away or less), the planes of the face are flattened and the nose, which sticks out considerably farther than any other feature on your face, appears much larger and wider than usual. Dr. Paskhover compares this effect to that of a funhouse mirror, and he thinks that it leads to a very negative self-impression. The distorted visual perception in a selfie coupled with the hyper awareness of a life lived on social media is leading many people to turn to plastic surgeons to correct these supposed defects.

Growing Nose, or Growing Problem?
Rhinoplasty, also known as the “nose job,” is one of the most commonly requested surgeries, taking up the number three spot for most popular cosmetic procedure. According the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, doctors are finding an uptick in the number of requests for this particular procedure in 2017, up 2% from the previous year and up 200% from 2000, and it may be due to the selfie craze. In a recent poll by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, well over half of the polled surgeons reported that their patients were seeking a nose job in order to better their appearance in photos on social media platforms, which was a 13% increase from 2016. Rhinoplasty is typically requested by younger females, which may also speak to the pressure that woman face about the importance of their physical appearance.

Many plastic surgeons have potential patients in their office, concerned about the size of their nose. But when questioned about their own perceptions about their nose, they will often use a selfie picture on their phone as reference. Doctors should always take patient photos from 5 feet away or more, so that both can realistically assess whether corrections are needed, and if so, to what extent. If you are seriously considering surgery, make sure that you consult with a well-reviewed, board certified doctor who you will give you honest feedback regarding your concerns.

It is crucial to remember that selfies are not always a true indication of your actual appearance, and deciding to undergo surgery based off one is neither wise nor healthy. If you do take a photo of yourself and feel insecure about the size of your nose, its best to have someone take a snap of you from a distance of 5 feet or more, so that you can get a better idea of what your nose actually looks like when balanced by the proportions of your face. You can also invest in a selfie stick that will let you adjust the distance and the angle between your face and your phone. And just a final reminder for all you selfie lovers: objects in mirror are smaller than they appear.

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