Faking it: how selfie dysmorphia is driving people to seek surgery

(L-r) A Portrait of Elle Hunt, taken in natural light on a digital camera; a selfie, taken on an iPhone without a filter; a selfie, with a Snapchat filter

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Filters have never been more prevalent – and it’s leading some people to have fillers, Botox and other procedures. What’s behind the obsessive pursuit of a flawless look?

With so much of life now lived online, from dating to job-hunting, recent, quality images of yourself are also a necessity – it is no wonder that Facetune (Apple’s most popular paid-for app of 2017) and the free follow-up Facetune2 have more than 55m users between them. Stav Tishler of Lightricks, the company behind them, says making airbrushing accessible has challenged “that illusion that ‘a perfect body’ exists … and levelled out the playing field”: “Everyone knows everyone is using it, supermodels and ‘everyday’ people alike.”

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Our Bodies, Our Feeds

Illustration by Erik Carter

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Last month, my friend Tracy posted a series of messages on Twitter, including one that read, “I look like a marshmallow tied up in rubber bands.” Another said, “Scientific fact: Salt and vinegar chips taste 46% better when you’re on your period.” Once I stopped laughing, I noticed she was using a hashtag I had never seen before: #LiveTweetYourPeriod. A quick tour of the tag revealed hundreds of other posts, ranging from the oblique (images of junk food) to the grotesquely exaggerated — one tweet included an image of the pivotal pigs’ blood moment in “Carrie”; another, the part in “Alien” when a creature bursts from John Hurt’s chest.

On the surface, this seems like little more than communal commiseration, but to me, it felt like something bigger: a microprotest against a modern paradox. Social media is saturated with images of hypersexualized women, but these are rarely considered as scandalous as content that dares to reveal how a woman’s body actually functions.