Now that social networks are a fundamental part of our way of relating, the image has become a priority issue. For this reason, it is very common to see creators and content creators promoting all kinds of aesthetic interventions in their profiles to achieve the desired look. one that is as similar as possible to Instagram beauty filters: slanted eyes, thin noses, high cheekbones and sunken cheeks.
Carla Barber is well aware of the potential of the networks and is one of the influencers who uses them to promote a model of beauty chiseled with a syringe and a scalpel. Although her responsibility for promoting this type of content goes further. She is a doctor and promotes her own clinic. Despite everything, her lack of professional ethics has often placed her at the center of controversy and has earned her criticism from her colleagues.
So much so that, in 2019, the Spanish Society of Aesthetic Medicine, of which Barber was a member, accused her by burofax of skipping the code of ethics. The reason? Draw a series of aesthetic interventions in their social networks. A practice that violated the code by creating false needs for its own benefit. After being filed by the Madrid College of Physicians, the influencer left the association outraged. What she didn’t give up, of course, was your promotion of aesthetics made in instagram filter.
Influencers promoting procedures with health risks is not new. However, Dr. Nélida Grande, vice president of cosmetic surgery at the Spanish Society of Plastic Surgery (SECPRE), points out the dangers of its normalization. “It has even been superficialized, and it is still a surgery,” she says in a conversation with Hipertextual.
The danger of filters that end in surgery
Instagram is the second public’s favorite social network, only behind WhatsApp, both owned by Meta, before Facebook. The platform is visited globally by more than 1,000 million people every day. TikTok, for its part, is the favorite network of teenagers, the group that spends the most time on the internet. Being the adolescent girls the ones who dedicate more hours to social networks. For this reason, we cannot ignore the effect that what is published in them has on our habits. Especially in the case of the most vulnerable people.
Dr. José Ángel Lozano, aesthetic plastic surgeon and ethics member of the Spanish Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (AECEP), affirms to hypertextual that “Social pressure to be perfect means that the influx of adolescents to our consultations is greater every day”. This expert declares that “Aesthetic surgery interventions in minors account for 1.7% of those performed in the country”. A situation with many dangers.
Dangers that do not exclusively affect minors, although they may be more serious in those cases. A few months ago, without going any further, the death of Silvia Idaliathe young woman who had been left in a coma due to a serious infection after a triple cosmetic surgery operation in the European Medical and Aesthetic Center (CEME) from Madrid.
A very negative influence
In that same center, the influencer Mar Torres underwent surgery. But she was luckier. She was able to return home the same day and the surgery was free for promoting the clinic and the procedure in your social networks. In his case, it was a bichectomy, an intervention in which the natural fat of the cheeks is removed.
This operation, along with other facial surgeries, has become fashionable in recent years as a result of the rise of beauty filters on social networks. According to data from the AECEP, rhinoplasty tops the list of most demanded procedures, displacing the traditional breast augmentation. And, since 2020, facelift and blepharoplasty, correction of the eyelids, occupy the second and third places.
But this obsession with perfecting smaller and smaller parts of our body and, especially, our face can have serious psychological consequences. Jedet, the well-known influencer and actress of the series Poison, confessed in an interview: “I dread uploading a photo of myself without Photoshop”. Although he does not hide that he has undergone 13 surgeries, he does refer to his preoccupation with beauty as a prison.
Dr. Isabel Moreno, president of the Spanish Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (AECEP), sounded the alarm some time ago. In recent years, more and more patients come to his office for surgery and show him their own photo with Instagram filters. This scene, which has become everyday, is due to a phenomenon known as “Snapchat dysmorphia”, although it can be extended to other platforms such as TikTok or Instagram. A concept that was coined to define the bodily discontent that emerged among young people as a result of the popularization of social network filters.
The consequences of “Snapchat dysmorphia”
Ángela Ruiz-Larrea, a psychologist specializing in gender and violence, defines it rather as “the frustration at not achieving the idealized image of oneself projected by the filter of this platform and become obsessed with wanting to achieve this image”. For her, younger people, and especially women, are the ones who are most vulnerable to this type of phenomenon.
In the case of the younger generations, those who have grown up with social networks, “the development of their own identity and self-image is closely linked to the image they project on the internet”. The further away from reality, the more complex they are generated and, therefore, the greater the need to intervene the body through surgery to adapt it to the high expectations shown from these platforms. “The feeling of ‘not measuring up’ can generate a lot of anxiety when facing the real world,” explains Ruiz-Larrea.
In girls and young women, this is intensified. In his case, he points out, “there is not only a greater demand in terms of beauty, but also in terms of objectification and hypersexualization.” Something that can be seen in the type of photos, more suggestive, that are uploaded to social networks.
Girls “internalize the idea that their personal worth depends on their physical appearance and their sexual availability, so attention is excessively directed towards the image they project on others”. “This can lead to many psychological problems related to the body and self-esteem, such as dysmorphia, but also eating behavior disorders,” concludes Ruiz-Larrea.
Instagram, at the center of the controversy
But “Snapchat dysmorphia” goes beyond this social network. It is a wide-ranging phenomenon that has very negative consequences on the health of the most vulnerable people. Something that the Meta company, formerly Facebook, has known for a long time.
Last year, the newspaper Wall Street Journal had access to some documents internal technology that tested the danger of one of its main platforms: Instagram. This is an investigation, carried out by Meta itself, in which the effects of the social network on the mental health of adolescents are studied.
According to data obtained by Meta on Instagram, more than 40% of young people said that the social network made them feel “unattractive”. In the specific case of adolescent girls, the documents revealed that 32% of them felt worse about their body because of Instagram. Furthermore, the research team found that teens wanted to spend less time on Instagram, but couldn’t. They felt a social pressure that forced them to be constantly present in the social network.
The company’s internal study concluded that Instagram worsens body image issues for one in three teen girls. Despite the seriousness of the situation, Meta decided not to make his investigation public. While its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, declared that the company’s research indicated that “the use of social networks to connect with other people can have positive effects on the mental health of young people.”
Responsible, thoughtful and well-informed surgeries
Misinformation is a phenomenon that is the order of the day. Nevertheless, the platforms cannot continue to evade their responsibility regarding the right to truthful information. Due to the account that it brings us as a society, we must stop, on the one hand, this tendency towards the disappearance of the critical mentality and, on the other, the proliferation and normalization of increasingly artificial and pornified images. The health of our adolescents is at risk.
Beyond the commitment to an acceptance of one’s own image and the promotion of more realistic and natural bodies, before undergoing any procedure it is necessary to consult with accredited professionals. They must ensure that their patients are mature enough to request the intervention, that they understand its risks and have all the necessary information.
As Dr. Nélida Grande, vice president of SECPRE, points out: “You have to be strict, not frivolize surgery and, above all, report correctly and clearly what can really be achieved, without filters.” The opposite can be fatal.