I cannot tell a lie, I am obsessed with sharing and documenting the minutiae of my daily life via social media, and in the same vein I enjoy consuming the minutiae of my friends’ daily lives. I feel like their photos allow me a glimpse inside their worlds and a chance to share in their best and not so best moments. And, yes, doing so enables me to indulge in my basest voyeuristic tendencies.
Of course, by the same token, while I love sharing photographic snippets from my life in a perfect world I’d rather be the arbiter of which moments, (and more specifically), which photos of myself are being disseminated through various social networks. Because there is truly nothing I despise more than being tagged in a photo on Facebook that is glaringly unflattering and makes me feel like I need some major cosmetic surgery procedure work done as soon as possible.
I know I am not alone in feeling this way and there is currently a very real trend of people who are opting for cosmetic surgery specifically to enhance their Facebook and other various social media profile pics so that they can indeed put their “best face forward”.
According to board-certified plastic surgeon, Dr. Michael Law, this new trend might potentially become the norm because so much of our lives are spent online in a digital world.
“I think social media is perhaps serving to accelerate individual recognition of the issues that commonly bring patients in for their first facial rejuvenation surgery consultation. Quite often, a patient evaluated for facial surgery will report that they have been seeing images of themselves in photographs that show aging-related changes that they do not like, and in many cases it is a profile photograph," says Dr. Law.
Of course Dr. Law adds that since he started practice in the late nineties, he has had facial rejuvenation patients come in for consultation because they have seen themselves in a photograph and the aging changes that they see in the photograph surprises them. Their exterior suddenly doesn't match the way they feel inside. Not long ago those photos were usually private family photos in printed form. Today, those same photos are digital and online for the world to see. People today do seem to be more aware than ever before of not just their reflection in the mirror, but their image in a multitude of digital photographs and how their online images represent them personally and professionally.
Dr. Law adds, “Clearly our culture tends to promote an obsession with youth and an obsession with physical perfection, both of which are a bit unhealthy, now served up at all hours and in all locations via the internet.”
“While there is nothing wrong with wanting to age gracefully, there is something distinctly wrong with having the expectation that you will maintain the appearance of your 20s and 30s into your 50s and 60s,” says Dr. Law. “I think there are likely to be many more consumers of cosmetic plastic surgery if surgery is seen as a means for aging gracefully rather than as a means for clinging to an idealized appearance of actual youthfulness, which none of us can ultimately maintain.”
All that being said, Dr. Law says he has yet to encounter a patient who expresses their interest in facial enhancement in terms of achieving their ‘perfect Facebook profile picture’. “If that was a patient’s specific, expressed interest in facial rejuvenation or facial enhancement, I would probably end the consultation. Fortunately, my consultation appointments are pre-screened by our highly-trained and experienced aesthetic surgery consultants,” says Dr. Law. He notes that the rise of social media simply means that people are seeing more images of themselves more frequently, and perhaps at an earlier age, and therefore the issue that stimulated that first appointment with a plastic surgeon is tending to come to their attention more quickly.
So, when it comes to the most common enhancements patients are requesting to achieve a “picture perfect” look Dr. Law says patients are usually looking to combat their loss of definition in the neck. Skin laxity below the jaw line, with or without excess subcutaneous and/or subplatysmal fat, can easily add 10 to 12 years to a patient’s overall facial appearance. Another issue patients are asking to tweak is hollowness in the eye area, which makes people feel that they look “run down” or tired. In many cases, this can be nicely improved with structural fat grafting. When expertly done, with an aim to produce natural-appearing facial contours, facial volume enhancement by structural fat grafting can erase 5 to 10 years of aging changes. Facial hollowness and loss of definition below the jaw line and in the neck are the primary issues that bring the 40-somethings and increasingly the 30-somethings in for consultation.
“Still,” notes Dr. Law, “there is not a single person on this planet for whom all photographic images are flattering (and there are many websites devoted to the distribution and promotion of unflattering images), so obsessing about every image that might turn up online is a complete waste of time. You can only control what you personally decide to distribute. You can’t really control what anyone else wants to post.”
So for those of us who would like to put our best face forward on social media, make sure to consult with a board-certified plastic surgeon who is able to offer you non-invasive procedures to give one that quickie Facebook profile face lift.
For those of us who are not ready to take the plunge of undergoing a facelift, Dr. Law offers some tips on how to look younger in our selfies: For starters, a smile is an instant facelift. If you want to look younger in photos, simply smile. And beware, by the way, of plastic surgeons that show postop facial photos of smiling patients. A smile may be what is producing most of the ‘improvement’ that you see, not the surgery that was performed.
Lighting makes all the difference in the world. Bright, frontal lighting washes away creases, wrinkles and blemishes, while downward-directed lighting creates shadows that accent aging changes and can add 15 years to an otherwise youthful-looking face. Hairstyling, makeup, and of course, Photoshop can all tweak personal image in a positive manner. You don’t have to have surgery to have a great Facebook profile photo.
I don’t know about you but I am taking Dr. Law’s tips to heart and will make sure I am ALWAYS bathed in the right light before anyone gets to snap of picture of me!