How Social Media and Beauty Trends Speed up Women’s Insecurities
- Instagram and TikTok are saturated with enviable before-and-after photos of beauty procedures.
- While masterfully done, they can instill insecurities in women (and men!) that weren’t there before.
- Buccal liposuction is the latest fad, and I’m tired of learning about new ways to sculpt myself.
Instagram tells us every day that there is a new beauty standard to live up to. You can either pay thousands of dollars that you don’t have to try to carve yourself into the look of the day or pay a therapist who can try to convince you that you don’t have to.
Either way, women are encouraged to spend big so we don’t feel bad about ourselves.
My Instagram Explore tab is a mosaic of before-and-after plastic surgery posts from celebrities and everyday people advertising clinics hoping to get thousands of other women and me into their waiting rooms. And it works – on a dangerously personal micro level.
The latest facelift is something most of us probably didn’t even know existed before last week. This is called buccal liposuction and involves removing the buccal fat pad, or the natural fat we have in our cheeks, to look slimmer. There is now memes and Reddit threads dedicated to mocking the trend, and also Instagram posts explaining how you can schedule an appointment for the procedure today.
The conversation seemingly erupted after actress Lea Michele posted a selfie on Tuesday in which she compared herself to Lucia, the fictional character on HBO’s “White Lotus.” People not only disagreed, but noticed her newly sunken cheekbones. from there, rumors turned (very unconfirmed) that she may have had filler and liposuction around her jawline and cheek areas.
Michele or her team immediately returned Insider’s requests for comment.
While it’s always unclear what procedures celebs have had done (because they don’t tell us), the sunken Handsome Squidward look seems to be quick make his way across Hollywood – Chrissy Teigen admitted to the surgery in 2021 – and now regular women have another facial feature to feel unhappy about.
Today, young women are not only asked to be thin and curvy (thanks, Kardashians), but there are new indentations and chiseling and vacuuming mechanisms available to bring us closer to the new perfect face.
I do not intend to litigate the rights and wrongs of plastic surgery. As with most things that sit in a complicated gray space, each person must make whatever decision feels best. Beauty standards are being pushed into our consciousness at breakneck speed. The more social media posts there are about buccal fat removal, the more intrigue it causes, and the more social media posts we will continue to be fed. I haven’t had time to process the “fox-eye” eye lift trend – especially as an East Asian woman, woof – that was buzzing earlier this year, and now I have to determine if my cheeks have the right angle and sharpness .
There were enough new cosmetic procedures this year alone to warrant a “biggest plastic surgery trends of 2022” list. The days of Kylie Jenner’s lip injection craze and the Brazilian Butt Lift (BBL) now feel like they existed in a hazy past.
I’d like to believe that most people aren’t serious about jumping on the bandwagon and scheduling a cheek fat removal appointment just because they saw a TikTok or Instagram post. But I worry for myself and even younger women about the abundance of these transformational posts and whether they might start to warp our better judgement. If we see a post once or twice, we can regulate ourselves to ignore it; soothe our inner critic; push against oppressive voices. But when we see the same post or discussion over and over, algorithmically placed in our home feeds, it’s easier to fixate on the idea that there’s something wrong with us, that we need to be cropped, hidden, and corrected to fit trends. .
Three years ago, author Jia Tolentino coined the term Instagram Face. It refers to the flattening of all beautiful human features into a single, cyborgian look—a maelstrom of Hollywood archetypes, social media beauty ideals, and face filters. Her 2019 New Yorker article warned us all to zoom out of our daily scrolling and notice how it shapes our sense of self. But in the years since, our pursuit of Instagram Face only seems to have deepened; our definition of beauty has narrowed and become more contradictory (big butt, slim waist, chiseled cheeks, big breasts); and plastic surgery is a more tantalizing option than trying to disrupt the totalitarian ideal that women have been groomed to achieve since childhood.
As we scramble to figure out the solutions to how best to exist as women in peace, social media companies are taking advantage of our insecurities. And their algorithms will continue to express the next set of beauty standards: A smaller forehead? Long, implanted baby hair? Maybe no forehead at all?