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Are Selfies Making People Get Nose Jobs?

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Happy #NationalSelfieDay! This is the day that we celebrate as our ancient ancestors did, by taking 400 pictures of ourselves making different faces and then only uploading the one that has the right lighting, the best smile, and the lack of spinach in our teeth.

Or you could celebrate Selfie Day by complaining about it! Everyone loves a person who uses social media to talk about how selfies are the hallmark of a society in ruin, probably because of teenage girls for some reason. And to be fair, there are some studies that suggest they might amp up our insecurities — I’ve talked before about how social media in general does that, and selfies, of course, are the currency of social media.

And new research suggests that selfies might be driving people to get nose jobs that they don’t really need. This comes from the March edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association’s Facial Plastic Surgery journal, in which researchers at Rutgers developed a mathematical model to show that taking a selfie makes your nose look bigger than it is. It’s all about the depth of field your phone uses when focusing — when your phone is just 12 inches from your face, it focuses in on your nose and makes it look about 30% bigger compared to when your phone is 5 feet away, which is about the normal distance for portrait photographers to normally use.

The researchers explain it like this: if you’re close to a building, it looks much bigger compare to the buildings behind it. But if you stand several miles back, that building will look like it’s about the same size as the ones behind it. The same goes for your nose compared to the rest of your face.

They point out that a poll from the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons found that 55 percent of surgeons reported that their patients wanted to look better in selfies. Unfortunately they don’t dig deeper to find out how many of those patients said that, or whether it was their primary motivating factor.

In fact, according to another group, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons — and yes, I assume there is a long-running, bitter rivalry between the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons and the American Society of Plastic Surgeons — nose jobs have actually decreased dramatically in the past 15 years, by 44%. Americans are spending more on plastic surgery, but they seem to mostly be increasing the number of minimally invasive treatments like Botox.

So are selfies leading more people to get nose jobs? The hard numbers say “probably not.” But it is worth keeping in mind for your own self esteem the next time you take a selfie: no, your nose isn’t that big. I mean, it might be big but it’s not that big.

Special shout-out to the inspiration for today’s video, Dr. Katie Mack! She has a beautiful nose, which you can see if you follow her on Twitter @AstroKatie.

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