They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but in the modern world of social media, you no longer have to be a celebrity to have hundreds, maybe even thousands, of people judging your appearance at any given moment. It’s no wonder that in today’s selfie-obsessed world, films, documentaries, and television shows about plastic surgery are more popular than ever. From Dr. 90210 to Miami Slice, plastic surgeons are quickly becoming both pop culture icons and the heroes of modern medical science. But when it comes to representation of beauty in the media, how do you know what’s fact and what’s fantasy? More importantly, why should it even matter?

Mirror, Mirror on the (Facebook) Wall

No question about it, unless you’re living in a cave or a treetop monastery, you’re going to be photographed. A lot. Cameras are everywhere, and photographs aren’t used to commemorate special events anymore. Thanks to social media, living a life today increasingly means documenting almost every moment of that life, from what you’re having for dinner to what you’re buying at the mall.

The ubiquitous behind-the-wheel selfie is virtually a prerequisite for starting the morning for a lot of people, but that’s not always a good thing. Studies suggest that today’s selfie craze is contributing to an increase in body image issues and disordered eating.

But you don’t have to be an obsessive selfie-taker or Facebook-poster to find yourself featured prominently on social media. If you are out in the world with friends or family, chances are great and growing that your image will be found on lots of social media pages. Perhaps never before have our physical images been as socially significant, less escapable, or more out of our control.

The Picture of Health?

Our fast-paced, technology-driven world has most of us moving less and eating more (and worse). The obesity epidemic is reaching crisis level, with approximately 36% of all Americans now classified as obese, according to CDC estimates. And that means that our unhealthy lifestyles are showing up in our faces and on our hips.

This can somewhat make today’s obsession with self-image not always a bad thing. If the current social media trend is the incentive a person needs to start getting active and eating right, to start looking good and feeling good, then more power to them. But it only works when it’s done the right way … and that’s where things get tricky. 

(Photo)Shopping Around

As the world of film and television, today shows us, all too often, the pursuit of beauty doesn’t always follow the course of good health, diligent effort, and careful planning. We are, after all, living in the age of instant gratification. And modern media is all too quick to perpetuate the myth of the ugly duckling who magically, seemingly in the blink of an eye, turns into the beautiful swan and lives happily ever after.

This is a fairy tale embraced the world over, from the Western children’s story written by Hans Christian Andersen to Asia’s cautionary remake entitled A Fake Pretty Woman. But all it takes is one quick glance at the growing catalog of sometimes outrageous, sometimes appalling, and often ridiculously botched photoshopped images in our favorite glossy magazines to remind us that there are no quick fixes and no easy solutions.

Doctor Feel Good?

Enter the plastic surgeon who, with the swipe of his scalpel or the flourish of her syringe, promises to make all our wildest dreams come true. Through their 21st century magic, they can turn us into the magnificent creatures we were always destined to be. And with just a wink of our newly-lifted eyes, a flash of our brilliantly whitened and capped teeth, we in our new-found loveliness can make all our problems disappear.

Or so the dream goes. But then we turn again to the magic mirror of the new millennium, the media, and we get a picture of a reality that isn’t quite so dazzling. Series like The Ugly Face of Beauty and Plastic Disasters reminds us just how bad it can get when things go wrong if you put your health and well-being on the roulette wheel, gambling you’ll hit the jackpot.

Of course, for every horror story documented in film and on television, there are 10,000 more successes. For every unnatural and plastic-looking face floating around out there in Hollywood or even showing up at the next PTA meeting, there are innumerable jobs well done, blending gracefully, prettily, youthfully into the crowd — the product of hard work, self-care, and the efforts of a well-trained physician who knows how to serve his patients’ best interests, and not feed their unhealthy or unrealistic obsession. In the new millennium, beauty may no longer be just in the eye of the beholder. It may also be in the hand of the one who holds the knife.

Image Source: Pixabay (