Is social media destroying our self-esteem?
We're so selfie obsessed it's dangerous As it emerges that nearly half of cosmetic surgery patients have been influenced by online editing apps, Closer speaks to two women who took drastic action to feel better about their Instagram selfies
Looking at herself L in the mirror, Lucy O’grady frowned at the image staring back at her. The mum was so accustomed to using editing apps to make her selfies look perfect, she couldn’t bear her face in real life.
In a desperate attempt to boost her self-esteem, Lucy resorted to surgery, in a bid to look like her edited photos.
She says, “I struggle with self-confidence and editing apps made me feel better about my looks. But earlier this year a stranger messaged me on Facebook, asking why I looked rough in some photos and stunning in others. It was devastating, so I had surgery to look like my Facebook and Instagram pics. I wanted to permanently emulate the effect of the apps.”
And Lucy’s actions aren’t unusual. A recent study* found that social media had influenced 49 per cent of cosmetic surgery patients. Doctors have even coined the term “selfie dysmorphia”, to describe the phenomenon.
Cosmetic Surgeon and CMO of Dr Medispa, Dr Munir Somji, explains, “Apps offer things like flawless skin, then people want to recreate that in real life. It’s also becoming common to use fillers to recreate the effect of contouring, without make-up.
“But some patients have problems with body dysmorphia, and will never be happy with themselves. I’ve advised some patients that surgery isn’t necessary and they should stop taking selfies, as it fuels their obsession with their ‘flaws’.”
Tanya Goodin, founder of digital detox consultancy Time To Log Off, suggests readdressing the balance on your social feeds.
She says, “Try cutting down on taking selfies and focus on other aspects of life in your pictures. There are also so many positive hashtags like #nomakeupselfies and #iwokeuplikethis where real women share unedited photos and they are great to remind you of what’s real.”
Worryingly, over 50 surgery-simulating apps exist, allowing you to edit photos. And Lucy, 42, spent up to an hour a day on her selfies.
❛MEN SEEMED DISAPPOINTED WHEN THEY MET ME AS I DIDN’T LOOK LIKE MY PICTURES❜
She says, “I’d take 20 and edit my teeth, nose and hair colour, then I’d upload five to Facebook. It wasn’t about getting likes, I just did it to make myself feel better.”
Londoner Lucy, who is a carer for her autistic son, Stirling, 12, adds, “I felt horrible, but I couldn’t stop – it was like a form of self-harm, I was addicted. If I dated, men seemed disappointed when they met me, as I didn’t look like my selfies.”
In the past year Lucy – who’s suffered with body dysmorphia since her teens – has spent £2,000 on teeth whitening, fillers and Botox. But with each procedure, she found something else about herself she hated. In August, she had rhinoplasty, to correct her breathing and straighten her nose.
She says, “A diving accident had left my nose wonky. I liked my new look after surgery, but I still hated myself and started looking into a thread-lift to tighten up my face.”
But in September, Lucy hit rock bottom. She says, “It got to the point where I hated myself so much, I wasn’t leaving the house. I knew I needed to change, so I booked a trip to Greece and quit social media.
“It was hard, but I knew I needed a break and to spend time with my son,” she says. “While we were there, I met a friend who runs a cat sanctuary. Seeing how badly some animals are treated gave me something to focus on apart from myself.”
Now, Lucy has set up a charity, called Kalami Kats, to rehome Greek stray cats in the UK. She’s also stopped her selfie obsession.
She says, “I’m much calmer and happier – now I’ve got something I’m passionate about, I’m not so stressed about my looks.”
She adds, “I avoid Instagram, but I posted a selfie on Facebook without any make-up and the reaction was amazing. I just want people to see the real me.”
Ruth Anderson, 31, also turned to surgery to look “better” on social media.
The single PA from Oxfordshire says, “I’d take and edit selfies up to six times a day, and looked to stars like the TOWIE girls for inspiration. In 2014, I spent £4,000 on a nose job, after using an editing app to see how it would look smaller. I regret it, though, because it isn’t that different.”
In a bid to create her perfect image, Ruth has spent nearly £20,000 on surgery and treatments, including a boob job, veneers and hair extensions over a period of six years.
But she’s vowed to go no further. She says, “I’m embarrassed that I was so selfobsessed and I’m trying to stay away from social media now.”
Lucy struggled with self-confidence…
She turned to cosmetic surgery…
…to emulate the effect of her filtered photos