You probably recognize this face. In case you don’t, it’s Kylie Jenner. Sort of.
In fact, it’s a filtered and almost incomprehensible version of Kylie Jenner, distorted through the lens of Snapchat, beamed worldwide through thousands of pixels to your smartphones and ingrained into your mind’s eye.
Here, reality and the realms of social media get blurred, in a phenomenon which has sparked a truly modern mental illness called Snapchat Dysmorphia.
The term was coined by Dr. Tijion Esho, an eminent medical aesthetician and founder of the ESHO clinic, who’s inundated with requests from clients to look like the filtered selves they see on their phone screens.
The consequences of so-called Snapchat surgeries undertaken without due care and attention are physically brutal and emotionally scarring for patients, Dr. Esho told UNILAD.
As an aspirational – if controversial – public figure, it’s no surprise young people want to look like Kylie Jenner and her famous Klan of sisters.
It’s not even a new phenomenon to get plastic surgery to get Angelina Jolie’s lips or Hugh Jackman’s jawline.
Although it concerns him, ‘as you should always aim to be yourself’, Dr. Esho is used to patients coming into his clinic, asking to look like their favorite celebrities.
But wanting to look like Kylie Jenner looking like a mermaid or a cartoon dog?
This is an aspect of millennial aesthetic aspirations so meta, it’s enough to give you a migraine, at best.
At worst, a mental health disorder.
Our obsession with appearance in the Western world makes it an unsurprising inevitability how Dr. Esho has seen a huge increase in non-surgical procedures throughout the last decade at his Harley Street clinic.
Yet he was particularly disturbed by the reams of young women coming to him with pictures of themselves in hand, filtered and distorted beyond recognition, begging to look like they do on social media.
So much so, he was driven to coin the term 'Snapchat dysmorphia.'
Dr. Esho told UNILAD:
"With filtered images it was even more of a cause for greater concern as many believed these changes to their face with filters at a click of button were so easy, this would be the case in real life. This is a very unrealistic and also dangerous expectation, as it trivialises procedures which are potentially high risk and it also sets up patients to live with unrealistic expectations of how they see themselves physically."
Arguably, it all started with the lip fillers normalised by the Kardashian Klan – Kylie finally admitted to using them recently – and Instagram influencers, who are the yardsticks of fashion.
Dr. Esho tells UNILAD many clients want the smoother skin they see on Snapchat, asking for laser skin resurfacing. Some want non-surgical nose jobs to make their nose look straighter and in extreme cases, they ask Dr Esho to alter their face shape ‘making it slimmer or more contoured and making the eyes look bigger’.
You might think these corrective procedures are just for women, but you’re wrong, Dr Esho says:
"Aesthetics is commonly a female dominated market but the percentage of men coming for treatment increases each year – now making up more that 20 per cent of the market. Men tend to filter their under eye areas, indicating they want to look less tired and more fresh. I’ve also had some filter previous broken noses identifying how they’d like it to look and also used to demonstrate what shape they’d like their jawline to be."
While filters are all well and good on the face of it, as a point of reference, the trouble comes when people are repeatedly subjected to a filtered existence so often, it becomes an extension of reality, Dr. Jenny Cole told UNILAD.
Although ‘people think those who add filters are vain or shallow’, the Manchester Metropolitan University Senior Lecturer in Psychology, who specialises in body image explained, ‘they are trying to get what we all want – reassurance we are ok’.
Dr. Cole elaborated:
"People generally look to others in order to figure out if they are ok, especially with appearance. If you’re comparing the un-filtered and un-edited you see in the mirror with other people’s highly edited photos, you’re always going to come up short. This has always been the case with celebrities, but is now happening when we compare ourselves with other apparently ‘everyday’ people on social media."
Social media has amplified the trend and both women and men are more visually aware of themselves than ever before. But where does it end?
Citing the photos of Kim Kardashian and her newborn, Chicago, Dr. Esho mused ‘it’s the new normal’ for a younger generation to be born into these wildly unrealistic expectations and have beauty ideals thrust upon them by their parents’ phones.
Kylie’s newborn baby girl, Stormi, was also born into this new ‘Jenneration’ of iGen kids, unable to separate social media from reality – whether they like it or not.
Dr. Esho said today’s generation can’t escape ‘the Truman effect’, adding:
"From birth, they’re born into an age of social platforms where their feelings of self-worth can be based purely on the number of likes and followers they have, which is linked to how good they look. Images of ourselves are now readily accessible and judged, whereas before we had to see images via magazines or TV. We now see them daily via social platforms, making us more critical of ourselves. Many of these images are then altered by filters and we judge ourselves against an unrealistic expectation."
So much so, Dr. Esho has refused to give a client treatment ‘many times’ due to ‘unrealistic expectations’ during a consultation which indicate ‘underlying psychological problems’.
He recalled the case of a young woman who brought in a picture of a heavily filtered version of herself, having ‘already had several procedures elsewhere’. Dr. Esho said she ‘was never happy with how she looked’, which indicated a deep-rooted issue, so he referred her for counselling and says she’s now making great progress.
While he concludes ‘no treatment I do could ever truly make you feel’ if you’re suffering with dysmorphia, some cosmetic procedures, when handled correctly and responsibly, can help people with self-esteem issues.
This is why Dr. Esho is campaigning to make it illegal for under 18-year-olds to have Botox and fillers.
He’s also written to Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Jeremy Hunt, imploring the UK to make it ‘illegal for non-medical professionals to administer them’.
The moral of the tale is, it’s ok to not feel ok all the time and no Snapchat or Instagram filter should dictate your feelings of worth and self-esteem.
Pobody’s Nerfect and that’s how it should be.