Social Media and Plastic Surgery

I’ve been reading in various places that social media is really giving plastic surgery a leg up—that it’s been giving plastic surgery a nice “lift.” (Haha, get it?) Well, I’m not sure I can argue with that. But what I can do is give it a little context.

Because the conclusion that many people will jump to is rather unflattering. Of course social media produces an uptick in plastic surgery interest: selfies are narcissistic and so is plastic surgery, so they’re a match made in heaven. Unfortunately, that might make for a good headline, but it leaves out some important truths.

You Can’t Avoid Yourself

My dad hated getting his picture taken. I remember as a kid he not only avoided the camera, he avoided looking at the pictures. That was a long time ago. The problem that social media presents in the modern era (wow, how old do I sound?) is that you simply cannot avoid looking at your picture.

When you sign on to Facebook, all of the pictures of you are there. Same when you sign on to Instagram or Snapchat or Twitter. Even if you never take pictures of yourself, other people are going to take pictures of you—and those pictures (because people tag them) are unavoidable. And once they’re on the internet, they’re on the internet forever.

There’s no avoiding pictures of yourself. And for people who are self-conscious about certain aspects of their looks, that can be kind of nightmarish. It’s not unthinkable then, that if you can’t avoid your picture you might want to improve it.

Social Currency of Social Media

I also want to push back on this notion that social media is only for the narcissist. There is a great deal of social currency in Facebook or Twitter. Here’s what I mean: if you were to apply for a job today, it’s not out of the ordinary for your potential employers to check your Facebook page.

In some ways, it might be hard to get hired without a Facebook page or a Twitter account or (at very minimum) a LinkedIn account. It’s hard to blame people, then, to want to really control the kind of image they project on these pages. There’s a great deal of social currency (and social power) locked in your Facebook page.

Getting plastic or cosmetic surgery can be a way for people, again, to exercise control over that social currency.

Not For Everybody

Now, this doesn’t mean that plastic surgery is the best idea for everyone with a Facebook page. But when you see articles talking about how Instagram is great for plastic surgeons, hopefully you can take a moment and consider that the relationship is probably a little more complex than it might appear on the surface.

For the most part, people who are interested in plastic surgery have been thinking about getting a procedure done for ages; Facebook might just be the final push, and I’m not convinced that’s necessarily a bad thing.


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