The Startling Effect Selfies Have On Your Facial Features

Photo: Linda Moon / Shutterstock
The Startling Effect Selfies Have On Your Facial Features

Hold onto your iPhones and Androids, kids, because according to science, that pang of disgust you feel in the pit of your stomach whenever you check out your selfies may actually be caused not by the proportions of your facial features, but an optical illusion that could make your nose appear up to 30% larger than it actually is! 

Before I go further into the details, what's the longest amount of time that you've ever spent taking a selfie? I want you to be totally honest. It's taken you some time, hasn't it?

Don't worry, you aren't alone! I can't speak for the world at large, but I can speak for myself, and I, for one, have definitely spent more time than I am proud to admit working to get just-the-right-angle in just-the-right-lighting before finally snapping a what I would even begin to consider a social media quality selfie.

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Hey, if you're going to be posting a photograph of yourself for the world to see on Instagram or Facebook or the like, you can't ignore the fact that "the world" includes people like the girl who was mean to you in 8th grade and the guy who dumped you five years ago. You want them all to know that you are now, as you always have been, simply stunning, and that you're having the time of your life in every single selfie you share.

Well, it turns out that no matter how much time you spend carefully cultivating the perfect selfie, no selfie will ever be as flattering as a photograph taken by someone else.

Yes, this means YOU, even if YOU are Angelina Jolie.

Selfies, as it turns out, actually distort the dimensions and proportions of your nose so much so that it can appear to be up to 30% bigger than it is in reality!

This isn't just my personal paranoia about my own nose talking, either. There's science behind it, people. Science that was just released in a research letter in the JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery journal titled, "Nasal Distortion in Short-Distance Photographs: The Selfie Effect."

That's right, this is legit enough of an issue that actual doctors wrote a research letter about it in a medical journal of record! 

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According to the same letter, 42% of people getting nose jobs these days do so in order to look better in the photos they post on social media.

This means a huge chunk of the population asking doctors to carve up their noses aren't doing it because they don't like the way their actual nose looks, but because it has never occurred to them to ask someone else to take a photo of them from somewhere around five feet away, which is the recommended distance provided by the doctors.

"Despite the ease with which selfies are taken," the letter states, "the short distance from the camera causes a distortion of the face owing to projection, most notably an increase in nasal dimensions."

I never thought I'd actually say something like this in a public forum, but oh my god we all need to go out and purchase selfie sticks immediately!

If it's the distance that's providing us with such confusing feedback about our appearance, why not just shell out five or ten bucks to get a selfie stick rather than pay for a serious medical procedure that is not only expensive but also has a pretty intense recovery period (on case by case basis, admittedly).

Is this the end of days?

Am I telling people to legitimately go buy selfie sticks?



Okay. I've calmed down.

The truth is that it's impossible to ignore just how much social media impacts the way we perceive our own looks. On these platforms, we aren't only able, we're encouraged to regularly share snippets of our daily lives, and often that means posting selfies.

If what we are see of our own faces in the images we take on our cell phones with our very own hands aren't accurate, is it any wonder that in our image-obsessed culture we give serious consideration to plastic surgery for no reason other than to make sure that our image in photographs better represents our face than the one we already have?

Ideally, should this news spread far and wide, and I'm hoping it does, it just might prevent more people from undergoing serious surgical procedures based on a false perception of their own facial features.

I've never, ever, ever been a fan of my nose. It's too broad. It's too big. It's too shiny.

On those days when I'm more feeling particularly insecure about my nose, the last I need is to do is at a selfie and see my own negative self-talk validated by an optical illusion.

The more you know! 

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Rebecca Jane Stokes is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York with her cat, Batman. For more of her work, check out her Tumblr.
Editor's Note: This article was originally posted on March 6, 2018 and was updated with the latest information.