OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (KCTV) — The cell phone self-portrait known as a selfie is seeping into more and more parts of contemporary culture.
The Oxford English Dictionary called “selfie” the 2013 word of the year, Ellen DeGeneres tweeted a celeb-filled selfie at the Oscars that generated buzz near and far and now selfies are sending people to plastic surgeons.
A recent survey of plastic surgeons by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS) determined that social media is driving people to get work done, whether it’s surgery or simpler treatments like Botox, fillers and peels.
Dr. Richard Korentager practices at KU Hospital’s Plastic Surgery Center and says in some ways the social media motivator is just another version of the more common one.
“It’s just trying to bring the way they feel and the way they look into harmony,” Korentager said.
Kathryn Verlin is a perfect example. So far she’s had Botox and chemical peels.
“Just looking in the mirror and thinking, that’s not the woman that I feel like on the inside that I am seeing on the outside,” she said. “I feel in my 30s and I’m not. I’m in my early 50s.”
If you think about the smartphone’s self-portrait setting as the new mirror, you can imagine how it inspires as well, sometimes with more intensity.
“People are taking them all the time,” Korentager said.
The shots go up in a snap. Shooting from only an arm’s length away puts physical flaws front and center. Plus, you never know when they’ll get passed around. That can make ordinary people feel some of the same appearance pressures as celebs do.
“To some extent there is a greater pressure to always be ‘on,’” Korentager said, “to always ‘look good.’”
One hundred twenty-three member doctors responded to the AAPRS year-in-review survey, which was sent via email earlier this year. Thirty-three percent of those doctors said that in 2013 they “saw an increase in requests for plastic surgery as a result of patients being more self-aware of their looks because of social media.”
Verlin is not surprised. Her selfies are just texted to friends to show off a hairdo or an outfit, but getting one she doesn’t hate takes some effort.
“It must be taken at least 10 times to get it exactly right, and believe me, my head is going up to hide this,” she said, motioning to the loose skin under her neck.
So is selfie-centered surgery a concern? Korentager says it depends. Whatever the trigger, his main worry is with is a patient’s expectations. Unrealistic expectations have led him to reject potential patients ever since he started his career 25 years ago.
“If you can do something that will help the health of your skin, will maybe help remove some dark spots, will help you look a little bit more refreshed, I think that’s a good thing,” Korentager said. “There’s no question that, whether we like it or not, we do live in a youth culture.”
When someone seems exceedingly self-conscious about a small spot, he says no. If it sounds like there’s something else they are dissatisfied with and they want a change in appearance to improve that, he turns them away.
“That’s not an individual who is likely going to be happy with whatever you do. You can’t change someone’s life by taking a little bit of excess skin from their upper eyelids,” Korentager said.
He says it’s the benefit of being experienced and having a well-rounded practice that includes more than just vanity work. Many of the doctors in his office also do reconstructive breast work for cancer survivors and skin grafts for burn patients. He says often, less work can produce better results. It’s why he recommends going to a registered plastic surgeon’s office even if the treatment is something like Botox, which is offered at myriad aesthetic salons and available at discount prices through coupon sites like Groupon.
“You really need to be assessed someone who will look at you as a whole person,” Korentager said, “and not just say, ‘You want this done, you get it.’”