Selfies distort faces like a “funhouse mirror,” study finds
Whether you love them or hate them, there’s no escaping the selfie. Armed with their smartphones, people worldwide take billions of selfies every day to capture a memory or share with their family and friends.
But researchers are warning that the close proximity of the camera can have distortive effects on the person’s face, which could potentially prompt selfie-takers to develop a skewed self-image.
“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,” Boris Paskhover, an assistant professor at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School who specializes in facial plastic and reconstructive surgery, said in a statement. “I want them to realize that when they take a selfie they are in essence looking into a portable funhouse mirror.”
In his practice, Paskhover said patients frequently show him selfies as examples of why they want cosmetic surgery to make their noses smaller. And he’s not alone.
According to a survey by the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons, 42 percent of surgeons said patients seek cosmetic procedures for improved selfies and pictures on social media platforms.
Paskhover decided to find a better way to explain to patients that selfies do not represent an accurate portrayal of their noses. He worked together with researchers from Stanford University’s Department of Computer Science to develop a mathematical model that shows facial distortion created by photos taken at close proximity.
In a paper published in JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery, the researchers explain that an average selfie — taken about 12 inches from the face — makes the base of the nose appear approximately 30 percent wider and the tip of the nose 7 percent wider than if the photograph had been taken at a standard portrait distance of 5 feet away, which provides a more proportional representation of facial features.
The study authors based the model off the average head and facial feature measurements from a selection of racially and ethnically diverse participants.
Paskhover says the impact of selfies on people’s self-image is a public health concern, and he believes that further research is needed on whether the distortion shown in his research actually prompts frequent selfie-takers to undergo plastic surgery.