Why You Hate Your Own Selfies
Updated: Sep 9, 2019
Bloop. On autopilot, I open Snapchat. But the Pavlovian jolt of dopamine the notification triggered wears off when I’m faced with my own distorted reflection. Not in selfie position, I feel like a literal thumb. Do I really look like that? This is the anxiety inherent to being bombarded with images of ourselves all day long, documenting and reflecting on our appearances at will.
Why You Look Worse in Selfies
Taking selfies actually changes our self-perception by making us think we look worse than we do. Then to make matters worse, you internalize how you look in your best photos and think when you see a real shot of yourself that it’s ugly. Plastic surgeons are even finding that patients are bringing their own selfies to consultations - something the content machine has dubbed Snapchat dysmorphia.
Humans tend to prefer the familiar. So if you’re used to seeing yourself a certain way - say, in the mirror - you’ll think any new perspective is ugly. A simple way to test this phenomena is to flip your photo (i.e., what everyone else sees.) I’m certain that I’m the one person on Earth who, despite the supportive insistence of those close to me, has a bad side. I credit this in part to my deviated septum. I’ve spent much time imagining a parallel reality where my nostrils are the same size, holding my nose up with tape or a fingertip.
Why You Can’t Trust Your Camera
If you’ve ever tried to get a shot of a really good moon only for it to show up on your phone as a spec, you know how much cameras lie. Yet you blanketly trust them when the subject is your own face.
Photographers already know that the camera can deceive. These distortions primarily fall under two categories: optical and perspective. The first is caused by limitations of the actual camera lens. Perspective distortions are the inevitable result of trying to convey the 3D world in 2D form. That’s why short-distance photographs (i.e., selfies) actually cause a perceived difference in nasal width, causing a rise in people seeking rhinoplasties.
Keep in mind that this is before we’ve even factored in lightning. If you hold your phone out and do a spin around the room, you’ll see 360 different people - some effortlessly sparkling, others harsh and sullen. It all comes down to whether you’re getting direct or indirect light. There’s a reason your favorite YouTubers all buy that same ring light: it pours light on your face so all you see is eyes, a mouth, and two nostrils. That's hot.
How to Love Your Reflection
Part of what makes Snapchat dysmorphia so strange is that we know what real people look like. After all, we’re real. We know and love real people. Filters shouldn’t be that persuasive - I personally don’t have a perma-crown or jumbo baby eyes - yet we think anything short of photo perfection is unacceptable.
There’s reason to think we shouldn’t even want to meet these ideals. To challenge the idea that facial symmetry is essential to beauty, the artist Alex Beck flipped his subjects’ faces to make two matching halves. (If you’ve ever screwed around on Photobooth you’ve probably done a similar experiment on yourself.) The resulting portraits are proof of just how uncanny we’d all look if we were perfect.
So what do we do about selfie anxiety? (Do not say to put the phone down.) It starts with what images we take in. I talked earlier about how we like what’s familiar. It follows that if we see more realistic representations of a face, we’ll grow more tolerant of our own features (and maybe even love them.)
Get HALE for Deviated Septum Relief
Using a breathing aid can help relieve the symptoms of deviated septum. Here at HALE, we’re developing a discreet product for improved nasal breathing you can wear day and night (nobody will know)! Sign up to our mailing list, like us on Facebook, follow us on Instagram and Twitter at @wear_hale for more top tips.