‘Selfie stick’ bans go into effect globally (copy) (copy)

The selfie stick makes it easier to get those perfect images of yourself. File/AP 

Although not an official mental disorder and therefore not (yet) included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, it’s my pleasure to forward the following term (in case you missed it) from a recent story that appeared in the P&C: Snapchat dysmorphia.

Smartphone technology and the internet have done more for humanism, self-aggrandizement and egocentricity than any one individual or group of individuals. Shakespeare’s astounding observation at the beginning of a monologue from "As You Like It" that “All the world’s a stage ...” might now be modified in the 21st century to include "and all its inhabitants an audience.”

Although Shakespeare’s observation was written as a metaphor, it’s the new reality based on the wonders of social media. There is no greater instrument for perpetuating that reality than the modern cellphone and its camera, which is capable of generating professional-quality images for all the world to see at any given moment. Thus the nearly unavoidable temptation for many of us to preen, pout, wink and grin like Cheshire cats for selfie portraits that can be thrown onto the world’s stage.

A facilitating instrument in this madness is the god awful selfie stick which just seems to get in the way of everything and everybody. Someone as a practical joke needs to invent the Selfie Stick Electrocuter, which can be purchased for an attractive price and concerning which the user will experience shockingly instant gratification.

Here’s the problem and the basis for story referred to above. People are freaking out because they are unable in real life to capture that perfect look and angle of the selfie image — particularly if that image has been doctored in any way. The story, written by Allyson Chiu and which originally appeared in The Washington Post, asks the following question: “Remember the days when people would bring photos of celebrities to the plastic surgeon’s office and ask for Angelina Jolie’s lips or Brad Pitt’s jawline? That’s not the case anymore.

“Now, people want to look like themselves — heavily edited or filtered versions of themselves, that is.”

Yes, it’s the latest type of body dysmorphia, the more familiar variants of which involve transfiguration into something else through repeat and multiple plastic surgeries or, on a different level, extreme piercings and/or tattooing.

“This is an alarming trend,” the story continues, quoting an article from JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery by researchers from The Boston University School of Medicine’s Department of Dermatology, "because those filtered selfies often present an unattainable look and are blurring the line of reality and fantasy for these patients.”

Not surprisingly, some people who look at doctored photos of themselves and not seeing the same thing in the mirror or an unedited photograph might start feeling bad about things and want a quick fix.

One of the doctors mentioned in the article said she has patients who want every single spot gone and they want them gone now, or at least by tomorrow and no later than a week. “'They check off one thing, and it’s gone,’ she said. ‘That’s not realistic. I can’t do that. I can make people a lot better, but it will take me a lot more time than a week and it won’t be 100 percent.’”

The underbelly of this dilemma is not good. Those who experience this type of internal conflict, reduced self-worth and unrealistic expectations may develop true body dysmorphic disorder, a serious diagnosis that, according to the article, confers an 80 percent risk of at least suicidal ideation and a 24-28 percent risk of making an actual suicide attempt.

So be careful with all the selfies. They may not be good for you. And now we know that selfie sticks might better serve as what they appear to be: Cattle prods.

Edward M. Gilbreth is a Charleston physician. Reach him at edwardgilbreth@comcast.net.