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How photo editing and filters can impact your body image

A plastic surgeon discusses how social media and photo editing can be harmful to one's body image.
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto
Young, teen girl using a tablet in the middle of the night.

Taking the perfect selfie has been made a lot easier thanks to filters and photo editing applications. In seconds, you can have flawless hair, skin and make up. However, for some it’s become an unhealthy obsession.

“The obsession with one’s appearance as it appears on a screen has fundamentally changed the way we interact with patients and the challenges that they bring to our attention,” said Dr. Patrick Byrne, who specializes in facial plastic surgery and is the chairman of Cleveland Clinic’s Head and Neck Institute.

Dr. Byrne said while it can be normal for patients to be critical of their appearance, he is more concerned about those who could have body dysmorphic disorder, which is when someone becomes preoccupied by an imagined physical flaw and will do whatever they can to change it.

He said it’s important to remember that what you see on your phone, computer or laptop isn’t always reality. In fact, a study from 2018 showed that your nose can look 30% bigger in a selfie.

“Even before these filters were in place, there’s this effect on many people in which they believe they look worse than they actually do, and they care more because they’re subjected to their imagery literally thousands of times per year through social media platforms,” said Dr. Byrne.

He said if you do find yourself becoming obsessed with the way you look, you may want to take a break from social media for a while. He also recommends therapy to help talk through how you’re feeling.

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