Opening your ‘for you’ page on any social media platform can be intimidating. The sensory overload that overwhelms many can be harmful to one’s health, but also is used as an escape by many to distract themselves. The mindless scrolling from picture to picture, video to video, just to make time go by faster, has made us inattentive to the content we are digesting. Either consciously or unconsciously, scrolling through social media leaves an impact on our minds. The videos we watch and captions we read get stored in our subconscious mind, influencing our behavior and opinions. The more we see a certain event or narrative presented to us, the more desensitized and accepting we become of it. For example, the more TikTok dances that we watch, the more we accept them as the norm, or the more videos we watch about a certain sport, the more interested and invested we become.
Unfortunately, the overexposure to certain narratives and opinions has a negative side. The way social media works is that the algorithm that decides what to show you has a component of including the most popular and relevant posts. Pictures and videos that are popular are more likely to end up on your ‘for you’ page. But unfortunately, the kind of content that generates the most traffic is usually ones that are controversial and unhealthy.
This brings us to how plastic surgery is becoming normalized through social media. Within the top 10 most followed people on Instagram, at least 3 of them have openly admitted to getting plastic surgery. It’s no secret who I am referring to – The Kardashian/Jenner siblings are known in pop culture as icons for beauty, but also for their very public usage of plastic surgery. Lip fillers, Botox and many other procedures are becoming casual words thrown around in conversation. Furthermore, there are TV shows about plastic surgery, giving people the idea that they can transform themselves into the ‘picture perfect’ versions. You have some people who transform into ‘Barbie dolls’ or ‘Superman’ through surgery, Youtubers are showcasing their plastic surgery journey and how happy changing their features made them.
So why are people getting plastic surgery? According to an article by Healthline, an increasing amount of screen time is the number one cause for heightened interest in plastic surgery. Dr. Dennis Schimpf, FACS, author of “Finding Beauty: Think, See and Feel Beautiful”, believes that the more time we spend obsessing over our pictures, selfies and images, the more we desire to change ourselves. The need for acceptance is greater as social media focuses on appearances. Another reason for its popularity increase, is that plastic surgery has become more affordable to many. With a growing market all around the world, plastic surgery is not reserved for the ultra-rich anymore. Regular people are starting to access this service, making it more attainable for many. Lastly, there are some health benefits linked to certain procedures that have attracted many people. For example, breast reduction surgery has helped women with larger breasts reduce back pain and poor posture. People born with deformed noses can hinder breathing, hence rhinoplasty fixes nasal related issues for some.
How common is it to get plastic surgery? Different countries have different rates of acceptance of plastic surgery. In South Korea, it is very common to get plastic surgery as research shows that 1:3 women have had plastic surgery. The culture is different as getting a double eyelid procedure or facelift is acceptable and common. It is not something that people necessarily try to deny or hide. In America, there is a major boom of plastic surgery with both men and women alike getting procedures done. America experiences 18 million surgical procedures each year, and this number is only rising.
With so much media attention on plastic surgery, how has it affected the way teens and youth perceive themselves? According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, teens account for four percent of cosmetic surgeries. This is mostly nose-reshaping procedures or ear surgery. However, from a doctor’s perspective, it is recommended that young teens do not get intensive surgeries like lip injections, liposuctions, or breast augmentation as the body can experience side effects later on. Though there are age limits for certain procedures, there is an increasing interest towards getting ‘work’ done. The desire to fit in and avoid bullying has pressured some teens into changing their perceived faults. However, it is important to remind ourselves that though we may be able to change our physical appearance, true happiness cannot be bought with some silicon breasts or lip injections. We must find it within ourselves to decide whether the change we are seeking is internal or external.