Sumary: We’re used to looking at Hollywood a-listers for inspiration. If Megan Fox gets some Los Angeles Botox treatments, then we want some too. Heck, we just want to look like Megan Fox. But as social media apps such as Instagram become more popular, we’re starting to realize that, hey, you can make a huge difference by the filter you choose or the angle from which you shoot. In other words, the sides are finally even, and everybody can finally play by the same rules. This is important, as cosmetic surgery has made a concerted effort to encourage patients to try to look like themselves. With the help of Instagram, that message is definitely carrying new weight.

Selfies, Social Media, and Cosmetic Surgery

We’ve spent a lot of time discussing selfies on these blogs. For those of you who are still unfamiliar with the term (it’s okay, we’re a non-judgmental lot), a selfie is a photo you take of yourself, usually with a cell phone. The main reason for snapping a selfie is to share it on social media. I will confess that I don’t really understand this compulsion, and I don’t take a lot of selfies personally. But they are certainly quite the phenomenon right now, and in many ways, they’re an important part of (especially young) people’s lives. In this way, we’ve written about how selfies are fueling a rise in cosmetic and plastic surgery. People are taking their pictures more often, and they want to look better for all of those pictures.

It makes sense. But now we’ve reached the second phase of social media inspired cosmetic surgery. There’s one social media platform in particular, known as Instagram, that seems to be changing the course of many cosmetic procedures. Instagram is kind of like Twitter, only with images. Rather than sending out short written messages, Instagram is designed to send out images. Many people use it as a kind of image blog. As such, it’s shouldn’t be surprising that Instagram offers users a wide array of filters through which they can edit their images. It also shouldn’t be surprising that many Instagram users will make a pass over their images with Photoshop or photo editing software before publishing to the web.

Celebrities No Longer Leading the Way

And here’s the twist on cosmetic procedures. Back in the day, candidates and patients would bring in images of celebrities—Megan Fox or Angelina Jolie or Brad Pitt—and say, “I want to look like this.” But now, they’re bringing in their own Instagram photos—photos that have been edited or that have been snapped from a particularly flattering angle—and say, “I want to look like this all the time.” The difference might seem superfluous, but it’s stark and it’s important. Because rather than looking to celebrities for influence, people are looking to themselves.

This has to be especially gratifying for cosmetic surgeons who have invested a lot of time and money and emphasizing the rhetoric of being true to yourself. In other words, much of plastic surgery marketing has placed an emphasis on being your real self. Indeed, this emphasis has been so heavy that a plastic surgery social media site—one of the most popular—has named itself Real Self. And this makes sense. Cosmetic surgery, when performed best, emphasizes your own features rather than giving you the features of someone else.

Instagram and Self-Awareness

So while some may decry the Instagram influence as a sign of a narcissistic culture or some nonsense like that, I prefer to look at it as evidence that this type of rhetoric accurately reflects what people are looking for from cosmetic surgery. So while Los Angeles Botox treatments may work great for Angelina Jolie—she’s actually in the same boat as the rest of us now. She takes an image of her idealized self to the cosmetic surgeon and says, “I want to look like this.”

It’s almost as thought people are more accurately previewing their cosmetic surgery by using Instagram filters and Photoshop. And that tends to work really well. Again, you’re giving your cosmetic surgeon a realistic depiction of what you want to look like, of what your idealized self is like. And so it’s an expectation that cosmetic surgeons are much more likely to be able to sufficiently meet. This is such a concern for most cosmetic surgeons that many of them will call out realistic expectations as necessary to be a successful candidate for the procedure.

As Always, Be Your Real Self

To be fair, I think people have always wanted to be this idealized version of themselves and not a stunt double for a Hollywood celebrity. It’s just that now we finally have the technology to make easy changes to our photographs. In other words, it’s simply easier to edit photos of ourselves than ever before—and it’s easier to take those photos. So we experiment with angles and we experiment with touch ups and filters (basically, everything Hollywood has been doing professionally for the past century), and we realize that, hey, we look pretty good from that angle. We can look like a celebrity too.

That’s what I think this Instragram is really saying: we’re just as beautiful as anyone else. And so many choose to emphasize their inherent beauty, what makes them unique—and that’s a pretty remarkable thing. So the next time you’re thinking about cosmetic surgery, be it Botox or a dermal filler, remember to emphasize what you love about yourself, and be the best real self you can be.

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