Art from “Beyond the Barbed Wire.”

Why “Snapchat Dysmorphia” Is The Disfigurement of Ailing Minds

When I was nine years old, I became the victim of childhood trauma that I can readily admit happened, but I’m still not at that place where I can talk to a professional about how the after-effects still haunt my every move, and I’m certainly not able to take a proud selfie as proof of my privileged accessibility.

The mind is a tricky thing, and even as we accommodate unbearably sobering news about how a nine-year-old boy ended his own life, in order to escape being terrorized for choosing a path to love that most still prejudicially loath — there’s the disturbing response that proves how very far removed we are from basic human emotions.

The notion that grown adults question out loud, how a young boy could possibly feel the sense of imminent danger, fueled by the ownership of who he is, and how that translates in a cruel world — comes off as infuriatingly regressive — and sickeningly evidential of how sickly we are in a climate that can only thrive under the security of bloated filters.

By the age of nine, I was acutely aware of inherently unmanageable moods that drift from low to the lowest bar, and why this can only be escapable when you consider a method of survival that isn’t at all terrifying to the kid whose pain overwhelms the fears of finality.

The apps of our content are erasing memories of functionality, and the basic assessment of what’s acceptable and what can’t be entertained — regardless of the pending symbols of our likability.

As the years piled up from adolescence to young adulthood, it was clear that the residue of that very bad episode had shifted into an obsession with anything that boasted a mirrored surface.

Even though the habit has dissipated with onset of aging, I’m still regulated to heading straight for the bathroom of private homes or establishments, as soon I enter those spaces, in effort to examine the features that belong to me, and yet there’s always the urgent need to remind myself that nothing drastic has changed, since the hours before.

My twenties were the worst, as I constantly stood in front of the mirror at the restrooms of workplaces, and was often times neglectful of the passing time. It was hard for co-workers not to notice my debilitating regimen — and my embarrassment would take the form of nervous smiles and the quick shift away from the object of my madness — when the door swung open.

This habitual handicap would also lead me to utilize public events like street fairs, where I would pretend to be interested in items that only served as the perfect excuse to once again stare at my face in mirrors that are supposed to help with fittings.

I’m led astray by any object that’s able to summon my likeness, even if they aren’t devised to primarily perform those functions.

Friends and boyfriends would joke about my impossible vanity, that was relentlessly hounding me into focusing excessively on my physicality.

And it got worse when it came to pictures, which I would spend hours scoping out with horror, as I would make the comparisons to surrounding faces, and endure sleepless nights and restless days — emanating from the despair of my grotesque template.

It took way too long for me to finally self-diagnose the condition known as body dysmorphia disorder. This menacing condition develops for various reasons, including as the resultant of a traumatic childhood experience.

The lifesaving news came via interviews with celebrities like actress Uma Thurman, who described something that sounded eerily familiar, and so the research began, and what was unearthed provided a window into my heavy reliance on mirrors, and captured images of face and body, with views that never match up with reality.

It explains why I’ve never been completely relaxed in social settings due to pre-occupation with my distorted looks, and this is particularly invasive because it has robbed me of embracing notable moments, that require the level of investment I was unable to give.

It explains why I spent my college years, covered up in baggy clothing, and ensured that my hairstyles overwhelmed my face to counteract how overly long it appeared in photos and reflective surfaces.

But, there are reasons why the only way to stay alive is to remain buried in the dirt of a deadly secret, that continues to assault in ways that become easier and easier to bear, for as long as you can still smell the dew after a much-needed downpour.

But my condition is nothing compared to the new sensation that’s dominating the trending charts, and its presence is more than just upsetting to those of us who can’t relate — it’s also proof of the inner workings of ailing minds — that have succumbed to the symptoms of an experiment gone tragically wrong.

So damn wrong, that the blind leading the blind enjoy that view, because it’s fuzzy and misleading enough to validate the time and resources that are expended on a never-ending project of self-indulgence — at the expense of diseased brain cells.

The Kardashian/Jenner empire is a powerful force in the world of Snapchat, in particular, because of those magical filters that possess the finessed dishonesty of how living our best lives must translate into looking our very best with the swift swipes — and if taking it a step further is mandated — then so be it.

“Snapchat Kylie” still has her “lips.”

And that’s how living in the age of a faux-disorder known as “Snapchat dysmorphia” opens the window to the shocking view to a kill, that garners the adherence of users to the philosophy of mimicking the shadowy versions of themselves — by any means necessary.

The worlds of dermatology and plastic surgery have collided to primp up empty heads with purposed exteriors, that are supposed to serve as bedazzled vessels of extreme requests — shaping into landscapes of beautified chaos.

Whatever is edited out from the screens of expensive devices, sporting the connections to destructive apps, warrants the very expensive transfer to flesh — as indents are smoothed over and fillers plump up lips — and other body parts that need the fatty sheen to enhance the enhanceable.

And when the asks are entirely too otherworldly for the world’s best manipulators, the heartbreak is gut-wrenching for the professionals who will do anything for money, except what only our creator should’ve created.

The phenomenon inspired by the falsehood of faulty profiles that are cunningly magnified to drive consumers into the frenzied occupation of tirelessly chasing the coattails of manufactured ideology - has birthed a population of disillusioned robots.

They are not built to last because they are programmed to be indefinitely paralyzed by the “the blurred lines between smartphone fantasy and reality, along with shifting beauty ideals.”

Doctors at the Boston University School of Medicine’s Department of Dermatology, gave the accurate summation of this celebrated ailment for an article produced for the JAMA network, titled: “Selfies — Living in the Era of Filtered Photographs.”

We live in an era of edited selfies and ever-evolving standards of beauty. The advent and popularity of image-based social media have put Photoshop and filters in everyone’s arsenal. A few swipes on Snapchat can give your selfie a crown of flowers or puppy ears. A little adjusting on Facetune can smoothen out skin, and make teeth look whiter and eyes and lips bigger.

And then there’s this:

“It can be argued that these apps are making us lose touch with reality because we expect to look perfectly primped and filtered in real life as well.”

“The pervasiveness of these filtered images can take a toll on one’s self-esteem, make one feel inadequate for not looking a certain way in the real world, and may even act as a trigger and lead to body dysmorphic disorder.”

The American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons released expectedly disturbing data, that proves how out-of-control users who base their worth on “effortless dopeness without filters” — are increasingly frequenting operating tables in an effort to line their Instagram pages with extensions of their Snapchat endeavors.

In 2017, facial plastic surgeons confirmed that the number of patients paying for surgical procedures that are meant to make impromptu selfies a #winning sport without the #buzzkill of imperfections, has risen by thirteen percent since 2016.

It’s aggravating to inhabit an era where a disorder that you’re trying to keep under control undergoes a national makeover, to include those who are willingly punishing themselves for the sake of “perfected packaging” — as worthy contenders for the competition that nobody ever wins.

They can’t stand what they see when the apps do all that’s possible to shine away the pesky bumps and hairs that are basically the only items of humanness they have left — and so they get scrubbed into steel, with immovable reflexes — that make indoor selfies in the most unlikeliest of places — a home run.

In the land of the living, where the pain is real, and time is spent doing the work that we can afford because the alternative is above our pay grade — the cure for our all-consuming dependency is the lifetime of dedication to self-healing with the mental capacity of human beings who don’t ever desire perfection.

Because if that happens, we’re dead.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store