Is Social Media Making Me Want Botox?

A study has explicitly linked the rise of cosmetic procedures such as Botox and dermal fillers to social media pressure.

Is Social Media Making Me Want Botox?

by Vicky Spratt |
Published on

I often wonder how the 2010s, the decade with no name, will be remembered? And then I try to imagine being an old woman and listening to historians and journalists talk about the decade that coincided with my twenties. They’ll dissect £3 coffees, condemn the housing crisis, marvel at how we were the first generation that evolved to have enlarged scrolling thumbs and, hopefully, praise us for our resilience in the face of old people voting for silly things (Brexit) and social media surreptitiously sending us the message that we aren’t as good as other people. This always leads me to the same thought – what the hell will we all look like then anyway?

It’s a serious question. How are the Kardashians going to age? How are the people I know, online and IRL, who’ve had dodgy lip fillers going to look in their 70s? How will the faces of those of us having a cheeky bit of Botox or some subtle hyaluronic acid injections fare after half a century?

At the time of writing this, I had not had fillers, Botox or any other cosmetic enhancement conducted on my face. However, many of the people around me have because, in recent years, these procedures have become normalised to the point of being not just ubiquitous but an accepted and expected part of women’s grooming regimens.

We know, anecdotally at least, that these non-surgical procedures are on the rise while cosmetic surgery is actually in decline, falling 40% in 2016. To what extent, we can’t be sure because the industry isn’t actually regulated so fillers, plumpers and preservatives aren’t always being administered by doctors or medical professionals. Due to the unregulated nature of this industry, reliable data on its exact size is not available but it has been estimated to be worth as much as £3.6bn in the UK. A quick scroll through Instagram, however, reveals the extent of this enhancement hence the rise of the phenomenon of ‘Instagram face’.

I’m one year younger than Botox, which was first approved in 1989. Unlike me Botox and the women who’ve been injected with it are ageless. I’d be lying if I said, at 29 years-old, I wasn’t starting to feel self-conscious about how I’m ageing. I know what I see on social media and in the media, is, often, enhanced but, still, I find myself feeling as though I’m falling short. The people around me are altering their appearances. From family dinners to friends’ birthdays and work encounters, there is always someone discussing what they have or are going to have done. One school friend is even planning to train so that she can administer Botox and fillers.

I tell myself to celebrate every frown furrow and laughter line, to remember the joy or the pain that put it there but there’s a seed of self-loathing that has, somehow, been sown in my mind. I know wasn’t always like this, as a teenager in the late 90s and early 00s I was fortunate in that I was very comfortable in my own skin which, I know, is not the case for everyone.

Today, a study explicitly linked the rise of cosmetic procedures such as Botox and dermal fillers to social media pressure. The report, from the Nuffield Council on Bioethics, calls for consumers to be protected from an unregulated industry, condemns makeover apps and voices fears over how life online is contributing to growing anxieties about body image.

Professor Jeanette Edwards, who chaired the inquiry, said ‘we’ve been shocked by some of the evidence we’ve seen, including make-over apps and cosmetic surgery ‘games’ that target girls as young as nine.’ She then went on to say ‘there is a daily bombardment from advertising and through social media channels like Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat that relentlessly promote unrealistic and often discriminatory messages on how people, especially girls and women, “should” look.’

People had plastic surgery long before social media was invented, but it would be hard to argue that it was as accessible as these procedures are now. Perhaps the Internet, which was born at the same time as Botox, has contributed to the desire so many of us experience, against our better judgement, to landscape our faces in order conform to unrealistic beauty norms.

Somewhere along the line we’ve accepted non-surgical cosmetic procedures as normal, and become numb to the very serious questions they pose. Beyond the obvious issues with an unregulated market in which anyone can inject poison into other people’s faces, the problem with ageless faces is obvious: you get older, live a life full of different experiences and it doesn’t show on the part of your body that meets the world.

Why are we doing it to ourselves? What does a fear of ageing really signify? It has to, ultimately, be about more than vanity. It can only be a surface symbol of how deeply we all fear death. Rather than comparing ourselves to others, injecting poisons and fillers into our faces in an attempt to stave off life itself, maybe we should start living so that when our inevitable ends come, we have nothing to regret.

Right now, furrowless foreheads, plump lips and hyaluronic acid-enhanced cheekbones are in, if we know anything about trends it is that this will change and something new will come along. What will stay with us, though, is the daily struggle to be comfortable in our own skins.

The ubiquity of fillers and Botox speaks to one phenomenon above all else: the fact that, as a society, a few people dictate what women should and shouldn’t look like and everyone else must fight the pressure to fall in line. We fetishize certain examples of the female form and dismiss others into cultural irrelevance on a whim.

The conversation around Botox and fillers itself feels like it’s been paralysed, frozen at a particular point in time. The industry is unregulated but it’s not just the how here that’s important, it’s the why. We’ve stopped collectively questioning it and asking why young women, up and down the country, are getting fillers injected into their lips in the same afternoon that they’re getting a manicure. What is it that makes an otherwise happy and secure person, like me, start googling the cost of fillers after spending ten minutes on my Instagram feed?

Will I ever have Botox? Will I ever inject anything into my face? I'd be lying if I said I wasn't tempted. What concerns me is that I've stopped questioning why I want to do this to myself. I've become numb to people telling me about what they've had done and the unrealistic beauty standards around me no longer seem absurd and therein lies the problem.

Perhaps we should all heed the words of Courtney Cox who, at the age of 53, has just had all of the fillers in her face dissolved so that she can look more like herself once again and age 'naturally'. Underneath it all - makeup, fillers, Botox et al. we can never fundamentally change who we are, any more than we can undo the fact that all people age, mentally and physically. Shouldn’t we be working on making the best of that by becoming a society which celebrates age as much as it fixates on youth, not trying to mask the visible effects? Beyond the signs of age, it's worth asking what we are really trying to erase? What is it that we really want to change? What are we so afraid of? What do we hope will happen? If the pressure to alter our appearances is coming from external forces, like social media, we need to look at what it is that is being triggered within ourselves. We talk a lot about what we lose physically when we age, it's time that we started talking positively about what we gain as we get older too.

Do we want our era to be remembered as the one where nobody wanted to look like themselves? This about more than what we do to our faces but, whatever we do, we would do well remember that the Elizabethans thought it was totally normal to smother theirs in arsenic…

Like this? You might also be interested in:

Why It's Complicated When Your Friends Start Getting Botox And Fillers

The Truth About Women Getting Botox Under 30

What It's Really Like When Your Mum Gets Platic Surgery

Follow Vicky on Twitter @Victoria_Spratt

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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