By Dr Laith Barnouti
COVID-19 has certainly a big impact on plastic surgery. However, we are now entering an era of post-COVID “Zoom Body Image Conscious Phenomenon”.
Over the last three weeks, I have had more than 10 people enquiring about neck liposuction as they are conscious about their neck and double chin area. They all have one thing in common: “I did not like the way I looked in a Zoom meeting. I was shocked how my neck looked. I desperately need to do something about it.” Furthermore, they all wish to have their surgery ASAP as they are working from home and they want to utilise the time for recovery.
In my opinion, the introduction of “Zoom meeting body dissatisfaction phenomenon” can be compared to the impact of introducing TV in the Fiji Islands and its impact on Fijian women (1). It was noted that there was an increase in the concerns about weight and body shape which resulted in an increase in disordered eating and taking drastic measures to control their weight in this population.
It is a fact that social media pressures are a big factor on body image and body dissatisfaction. The use of social media was previously shown to correlate with body dissatisfaction as social media can have a massive role in setting out the standards that influence the perception of beauty ideals. It is estimated that 74% of online adults are using social networking sites and this is predicted to continue to increase.
The use of social media is thought to cause body dissatisfaction through internalisation which is the acceptance of the norm for the ideal bodies established by social media. This can develop in early life and mostly impacts teenagers. The consequences of body dissatisfaction can later on lead to low self-esteem, mental health and affect personal relationships.
The particular activities of uploading pictures and seeking compliments were found to have a massive impact on self-esteem. This is further added on by the comments they receive on their images which starts a positive feedback loop that encourages further post. Whereas, negative feedback lowers self-esteem which can lead to more problems in eating disorders and body dissatisfaction. (2)
Through internalisation, social media influence on ideals of body image has also shown to cause problems in eating disorders among teenagers in an attempt to reach what is viewed as the ideal weight for that person. (3) It was also concluded that social comparison among peers may play a bigger role in body dissatisfaction than when comparing with dissimilar people such as celebrities.
Becker, A.E. Television, Disordered Eating, and Young Women in Fiji: Negotiating Body Image and Identity during Rapid Social Change. Cult. Med. Psychiatry 2004, 28, 533–559. [CrossRef]
Ahmadpanah M, Arji M, Arji J, Haghighi M, Jahangard L, Sadeghi Bahmani D, Brand S. Sociocultural Attitudes towards Appearance, Self-Esteem and Symptoms of Body-Dysmorphic Disorders among Young Adults. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019 Oct 31;16(21):4236. doi: 10.3390/ijerph16214236. PMID: 31683731; PMCID: PMC6862198.
Fitzsimmons-Craft EE, Krauss MJ, Costello SJ, Floyd GM, Wilfley DE, Cavazos-Rehg PA. Adolescents and young adults engaged with pro-eating disorder social media: eating disorder and comorbid psychopathology, health care utilization, treatment barriers, and opinions on harnessing technology for treatment. Eat Weight Disord. 2019 Nov 2.doi: 10.1007/s40519-019-00808-3.
Dr Laith Barnouti is a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (FRACS) and a member of ASAPS, representing the highest standards of cosmetic excellence by registered specialist plastic surgeons. You can view his profile here.