Selfies distort nose size, sparking demands for plastic surgery

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Selfies

People take billions of selfies every day without realising the distortive effects of the camera’s close proximity, prompting many to develop a skewed self-image which translates into demands for plastic surgery to make their noses smaller.

Does my smartphone make my nose look big? It might, according to researchers at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.

People take billions of selfies every day without realising the distortive effects of the camera’s close proximity, prompting many to possibly develop a skewed self-image. Boris Paskhover, an assistant professor at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School’s department of otolaryngology who specialises in facial plastic and reconstructive surgery, frequently was shown selfies as examples of why patients were requesting surgery to make their noses smaller.

“Young adults are constantly taking selfies to post to social media and think those images are representative of how they really look, which can have an impact on their emotional state,” he said. “I want them to realise that when they take a selfie they are in essence looking into a portable funhouse mirror.”

Paskhover sought a better way to explain to patients why they cannot use selfies to evaluate their nose size so they can improve their self-perception and make more informed decisions about their health. He worked with Ohad Fried, a research fellow at Stanford University’s department of computer science, to develop a mathematical model that shows nasal distortion created by photos taken at close range.

The Rutgers-Stanford model shows that an average selfie, taken about 12 inches from the face, makes the nasal base appear approximately 30% wider and the nasal tip 7% wider than if the photograph had been taken at 5 feet, a standard portrait distance that provides a more proportional representation of facial features.

The mathematical model is based on the average head and facial feature measurements obtained from a selection of racially and ethnically diverse participants. The model determined the magnitude of the distortive effect by presenting the face as a collection of parallel planes perpendicular to the main camera axis. It calculated the changes to the ratio between the nose’s breadth and the width between the two cheekbones at various camera distances.

How selfies drive people’s self-image is a public health issue, Paskhover said. The American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons, reports that 55% of surgeons say people come to them seeking cosmetic procedures for improved selfies.

Abstract
The selfie, or self-photograph, has rapidly become one of the major photographic modalities of our time; in 2014 alone, there were over 93 billion selfies taken on Android phones per day. Despite the ease with which selfies are taken, the short distance from the camera causes a distortion of the face owing to projection, most notably an increase in nasal dimensions.

Authors
Brittany Ward, Max Ward, Ohad Fried, Boris Paskhover

Rutgers University material
JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery abstract


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