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Selfie Craze in the Brave New World


Online communication and social networks have really changed the world—these days you can hold a conference online, have friends anywhere in the world and buy airplane tickets in the middle of the night lying comfortably in your own bed.

An unexpected effect of the new communication possibilities was a change in people’s perception of their looks. Psychologists used to anxiously raise awareness of the unnatural beauty standards promoted by the glossy magazines, but today it is becoming quite obvious—even the fashion industry is not omnipotent. People are capable of creating new standards, especially when they can take a close look at Hollywood and Bollywood celebs, as well as a haughty nouveau riche next door.

In my professional experience the first sign of the social networks’ growing influence was the increased demand for instant beauty procedures. When I started out, frankly, these sort of beauty treatments were not exactly popular—women were prepared to spend time and money in order to beautify their skin or to reduce cellulite, knowing that it won’t be done in a day. The French and Swiss cosmetic brands that we worked with did offer those one-time instant beauty procedures that could make you radiant for just this one party, but the Cinderella effect that lasts up till midnight did not particularly inspire cosmetologists or their clients.

And then suddenly a new wave of clients flooded the beauty salons—the women that never used to visit cosmetologists. They all came with a similar request: “Make me young and pretty for tomorrow. I don’t care if it’s expensive and won’t last, I need to be beautiful tomorrow!” The cosmetologist shared the news with each other at professional seminars, they were astonished—where did all these new clients come from? What’s with the sudden desire for just one-night beauty?

The answer was simple. Facebook came online. People would find their old class mates on Facebook, show off their best photos of the past years, and then decide to meet up after all these years. Naturally, meeting up with friends of one’s youth is emotional, and everyone wants to look just like they did at the prom. Only better—prettier and more successful.

Cosmetologists are not the only ones who could thank Facebook for the sudden influx of clients. Hairdressers and makeup artists were engaged as well. Professional makeup, previously only ever ordered by the rich and famous was suddenly in demand everywhere, so many salons hired in-house makeup artists.

On Facebook and especially Instagram the photographs have become a new means of communication, allowing to tell one’s story and, of course, demonstrate one’s success. But the key changes in the beauty industry seem to have followed the selfie frenzy.

This phenomenon is being widely discussed today, mostly by psychologists. As it turns out, most people can be easily hooked on their own self portraits, photograph themselves daily and share the pictures online. And it can interest other people too.

The first aesthetic professionals to talk about selfie phenomenon were plastic surgeons. The avalanche-like increase in the demand for rhinoplasty has been registered in almost every country.  It is rather easy to explain—selfie distorts facial proportions. When a person is taking their own picture, practically at any angle their nose can look bigger than it actually is. Many young people, boys as well as girls, come to plastic surgeons asking to make their noses smaller and demonstrate the pictures of their idols with noses looking perfect on their selfies.

Besides when you constantly take pictures of your face from a small distance, any skin imperfections, even the tiniest ones, are now causing distress and the desire to get rid of them. A small scar, slightly enlarged pores, a single broken capillary are not demonstrated to a doctor anymore, instead patients show their physician a photo on a phone screen where said scar or pores look enormous. “I want perfect skin, the one that would look radiant #nofilter”—such is the demand of today’s Instagram user.

Facial symmetry, even skin tone, no inflammations or flakiness are other subjects of heightened demand. The face must be absolutely flawless so one’s friends on Instagram can appreciate the effort.

As a beauty professional I find this tendency Utopian. It is impossible to rid a living human face of all imperfections. More importantly, in the world outside of selfie, there is no need to. Honestly, no one can see your micro scar, right there on the right by the ear. It real life your nose is most likely just fine, and a slight asymmetry of your eye brows is only noticeable to a professional spy or Sheldon Cooper. Chasing perfection for a selfie may be endless, but who really needs it?

The only thing revived by it is perhaps plastic surgery—with all the new selfies taken right in the operation rooms.

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