The Facebook Facelift is only the beginning of social media-motivated plastic surgery

fb faceliftPeople have augmented their appearances in all sorts of messed up, creative ways ever since the invention of the mirror. Extreme elective surgery to contort the human body into a closer approximation of an impossible ideal has gone on for thousand of years – and your standard Los Angeles mammoplasty these days looks positively relaxing compared to the prolonged, chronic torture of T’ang Dynasty foot binding. Suffice it to say we’ve always taken the whole beauty thing way, way too far. 

It’s been this way for what feels like ever, so you can’t cast too rosy a nostalgic glance at the past and forget that we’ve always been vain and borderline crazy when it comes to altering our appearances. But now the Internet is causing us to take it to new levels of insanity. 

While people are still showing up at doctors’ offices with the very human dream of looking beautiful, but now they’re being more specific: They want to look beautiful online. Instead of wanting to look beautiful on the beach, at our weddings, or to feel more confident in interviews, now we want as many online admirers who are compelled to click “like” at the sight of our profile pictures.  

People are starting to visit plastic surgeons with complaints of how they look in photos their friends tag, wanting a smoother chin-line or higher cheekbones so that the onslaught of random and tagged Facebook and Instagram photos won’t betray them. 

Prospective patient complaints extend to video as well. When you’re back at home Skyping, you don’t want to be distracted by that small box featuring your face in the corner … but you just can’t help it.

This kind of thinking is producing demand for cosmetic procedures that make sure you look good in the digital world. Since people tend to have the camera point up when they Skype or FaceTime on their phone, it’s not a very flattering angle for chins. This is one of the reasons why plastic surgeons have seen an increase in surgeries to improve how the lower half of the face looks, with one Texas-based plastic surgeon named Dr. Robert K. Sigal inventing a special procedure called the “FaceTime Facelift.” If you’re thinking “why don’t people just reposition their cameras?” you’re underestimating the complex that the Internet is giving us: There’s even a Facebook app where you can ask if you need certain plastic surgery procedures and get crowd-sourced answers. 

Dr. Sigal isn’t alone. Dr. Richard Ellenbogen, a high-end plastic surgeon in L.A., told plastic surgery review site RealSelf about how our digital lives impact our plastic surgery requests. “Internet dating and Facebook dating has really changed how people approach what they want to look like. People come in and show me their Facebook pictures, and ask what they can do to look hotter, and we work backwards from that. I use computer software to show them what they’re going to look like, and to make sure they don’t look stupid.”

The American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery released a study in March that corroborates the stories of individual surgeons. The study looks at a survey of plastic surgeons, and found a 31 percent increase in social media-inspired surgeries inspired. 

Cutting open your face to make it look better in a 2D online image seems like the folly of unmitigated narcissists who don’t know how to use Photoshop.

Dr. Malcolm Z. Roth, former President of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, has witnessed this increase. “Skype, FaceTime, and other live talk features on digital devices have led to more consultations and procedures.  People are now seeing their faces as others see them in real time, and they often do not like what they see,” he says. “People are noticing their jowels, necks, and wrinkles.  When we look in the mirror, we often instinctively tilt our heads in a way that minimizes the tell-tale signs of aging.  When you are having a conversation, facial expressions and animation make those unwanted ‘imperfections’ come alive. Neurotoxins, fillers, laser procedures as well as neck and face lifts and eyelid tucks are being requested by these ‘social’ individuals.” 

This isn’t limited to a U.S. obsession either. Sigal started his FaceTime facelifts last year, but there’s a new fad spreading across the globe, starting with India. News startup Vocativ reports that there’s a “Facebook facelift” trend among 20-and-30-something year old men and women seeking plastic surgery. These tune-ups often entail multiple minor procedures, with an especially attractive Facebook profile picture as the goal.

“Facebook facelifts are not exactly facelifts, they are relatively minor procedures that people in their twenties and thirties get done to improve their pictures on the social media,” explains Dr. Ajay Kashyap.

The question is why are we turning to these expensive, painful, permanent efforts? Deciding to actually cut open your face to make it look better in a 2D online image seems like the folly of unmitigated narcissists who don’t know how to use Photoshop. We can manipulate how we look in photos and in videos far more easily than we can in real life, so it seems counter-intuitive that people are so willing to undergo surgery to ensure they look their online best. 

But if you accept the premise that plastic surgery for cosmetic enhancement is a reasonable way to improve someone’s looks, then the logic of these Internet-based procedures isn’t that outlandish. As more and more people snap photos and share them on Facebook and Instagram, and as video-chats become a primary form of communication, the amount of time your digital image is front and center increases exponentially.

And what’s more, you’re no longer in control of it; someone can tag a photo of you that you hate, and even though you can untag it, the picture will likely remain on the Internet. The increase in surgeries to ensure digital beauty makes sense when you consider how quickly people are losing control over what images of them wind up online and in public view.

The Facebook facelift trend in India has a lot to do with the fact that the people participating in it view Facebook as a dating site. They are trying to put their best face forward for potential love connections. And as online dating continues to expand into one of the primary ways people meet each other, the pressure to have a camera-ready face is also growing. When you have seemingly unlimited dating options online, it becomes easier to judge people on superficial grounds, and this plastic surgery trend underlines how people are trying to adapt in a new, more cutthroat romantic atmosphere. It may seem silly or vain to get a cosmetic procedure in order to look better online, but when you consider that people do judge their potential mates on how good they look in profile pictures, it’s hard not to be sympathetic.

While the AAFPRS research makes it clear that social media does influence plastic surgery decisions, the study found that people are actually relying on places like Facebook less to find plastic surgeons, choosing to go with referrals and research instead of clicking on ads within social networks. So even though people continue to use social media as an impetus for procedures, they’re doing some more “manual” legwork to find a doctor.

Dr. Roth believes the trend towards plastic surgery to keep up appearances isn’t going anywhere. “Having plastic surgery has become more acceptable, and the public has learned that when it is performed by board certified plastic surgeons, it is usually very safe.  Since we’re now seeing more people in the public eye that have had plastic surgery without looking like they had it, patients have realized that if they do their homework and go to the right surgeon, they have an excellent chance of having a nice result, often with minimal or no down time,” he says. 

“In the down economy of the past few years, many people who never thought they would consider it are having plastic surgery to look more youthful and energetic, either to keep their jobs or to rejoin the work force.”  

As long as social media profile pictures are used as a way to make a first impression on an employer or a lover, it looks like plastic surgery to keep these digital avatars looking sharp will also persist, no matter how advanced Photoshop gets – people don’t want to see disappointment in the eyes of an online associate when they meet in person for the first time. 

Social Media

You can now share saved Facebook posts with a Pinterest-like collection tool

Facebook collections can now be shared with friends if you also want to allow them to contribute to the list. Facebook is rolling out an update that allows users to add a contributor to their collections, or lists of saved Facebook posts.

Santa Claus is coming to town. Get ready with these Christmas apps

Like it or not, Christmas comes but once a year. Thankfully, we've got a list of the best Christmas apps to help get you into the holiday spirit, just in case you want to call Santa or become a Christmas elf.

Apple's iOS 12.1.1 makes it easier to switch cameras in FaceTime

After months of betas, the final version of iOS 12 is here to download. The latest OS comes along with tons of new capabilities, from grouped notifications to Siri Shortcuts. Here are all the features you'll find in iOS 12.

Our favorite Windows apps will help you get the most out of your new PC

Not sure what apps you should be downloading for your newfangled Windows device? Here are the best Windows apps, whether you need something to speed up your machine or access your Netflix queue. Check out our categories and favorite picks.

Players' 'Red Dead Online' beta progress will carry over to the full release

Red Dead Online will gradually rolled out to Red Dead Redemption 2 players via a beta. We've got all the details about the beta's suite of competitive and cooperative modes, as well as what to expect going forward.

Broadway actor tells Kanye West to get off his phone during opening night

Theater actors can get understandably upset when they spot someone in the audience fiddling with their phone instead of watching the show. The other night that audience member was Kanye West, and he got called out for it.
Social Media

This event topped Facebook’s biggest moments of the year — again

As the year comes to a close, Facebook is looking back on what users discussed most over the last year. For two years in a row, International Women's Day topped the list. So what else is on the list?
Social Media

This band owns Twitter, according to list of top accounts and tweets for 2018

What was the biggest buzz on Twitter in 2018? Twitter's 2018 Year in Review highlights the biggest tweets, accounts, and hashtags. The most-tweeted celebrities, movies, TV shows, athletes, politicians and more in Twitter's 2018 trends.
Social Media

What do yodeling and Kylie Jenner have in common? YouTube’s top 2018 videos

In a true nod to the variety found on YouTube, the platform's top 10 list of videos from 2018 range from celebrities to sports, from perfectly tossing a picture frame on the wall to a kid yodeling in aisle 12 at Walmart.
Home Theater

It took Tom Cruise to raise awareness of this troublesome TV setting

Tom Cruise, in an unexpected PSA tweet, asks you to turn off motion interpolation on your TV, but stops short of how to do it. Here's more on the topic, along with links to a guide on how to rid your TV of the dreaded "soap opera effect."

Make a GIF of your favorite YouTube video with these great tools

Making a GIF from a YouTube video is easier today than ever, but choosing the right tool for the job isn't always so simple. In this guide, we'll teach you how to make a GIF from a YouTube video with our two favorite online tools.

Amazon scouted airport locations for its cashier-free Amazon Go stores

Representatives of Amazon Go checkout-free retail stores connected with officials at Los Angeles and San Jose airports in June to discuss the possibility of cashier-free grab-and-go locations in busy terminals.
Social Media

Snapchat facial recognition could soon power a new portrait mode, code suggests

Digging into Snapchat's code suggests a handful of upcoming camera features, including a portrait mode. The feature appears to use facial recognition A.I. to blur the background. The code also suggests an updated camera interface.

Google+ continues to sink with a second massive data breach. Abandon ship now

Google+ was scheduled to shut its doors in August 2019, but the second security breach in only a few months has caused the company to move its plan forward a few months. It might be a good idea to delete your account sooner than later.