How Social Media Is Spurring Plastic Surgery
by ABC Digital
(LOS ANGELES) -- Triana Lavey was about to undergo a radical transformation. And she was doing it for a radical reason. She wanted to look better online.
With the help of Beverly Hills plastic surgeon Dr. Richard Ellenbogen, she was changing her chin, her nose and the shape of her face.
Lavey is a 37-year-old television producer in Los Angeles. For work and socially, she spends a lot of time on Skype, Facebook and other sites. She said she didn't like the face staring back at her from her computer screen.
"I have been self-conscious about my chin, and it's all stemming from these Facebook photos," she told ABC News correspondent Cecilia Vega.
The more she saw herself online, the more she said she wanted to change.
"I think that social media has really changed so much about how we look at ourselves and judge ourselves," Lavey said. "Ten years ago, I don't think I even noticed that I had a weak chin."
Lavey tried to change the camera angle. She even untagged herself in photos she didn't like. But none of it was enough.
"Here is a weak-chin photo that I didn't untag myself in ... because I was working out really hard that summer, and I am pleased with everything else in the photo," Lavey said. "But it's my darn chin that bugs the living daylights out of me in this photo. ... You keep looking and looking, and now it's the first thing I look for in a photo. It all started with Facebook."
Surgery was the only way to fix it. Simply cutting down her social media use wasn't an option.
"That can't happen. ... Where my career is headed and the industry is headed, I have to be on social media," Lavey said.
Lavey is not alone. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, chin augmentations have increased 71 percent in the last year. Doctors confirm that more and more patients are asking for the Facebook facelift -- plastic surgery for the iPhone generation.
At Lavey's consultation, Ellenbogen showed her what her new online-ready face would look like.
Ellenbogen explained that augmenting the chin should be balanced by adjustments to the rest of the face with procedures like fat grafting -- adding a bit of fat to the face -- and rhinoplasty (a nose job).
Given that social media are supposed to make life easier, did Lavey feel she was doing something extreme?
"Plastic surgery should be a last-ditch effort," she said. "It should be after you work out, after you diet."
"I am blessed; I can afford it," she said. "I feel really lucky. I have worked my butt off, and I feel like if I can afford it, if it's something I can do to feel good and feel confident, why not? It's 2012."
The surgery Lavey got costs between $12,000 and $15,000, Ellenbogen said. Lavey is a friend, so she got a discount.
Is our eager embrace of social media creating a culture of Internet narcissism? And can't we just move the webcam to improve the angle from which it shoots us?
"It definitely is, and most people should do that," Ellenbogen said, "but there are people who have tried to do that, to make themselves more attractive, and they just need a little bit of a boost."
More than a month after her surgery, Lavey was ready to show her 692 Facebook friends her new face.
She said she felt more confident.
"It extends all the way from Skyping with people [to] having people tag me in a Facebook photo," she said. "If the camera comes out at a party ... I am fine with it. I am excited to see them. Before, I used to want to hold my chin, but now I want to show my face."
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio