Once-upon-a-time, if we were unhappy with our Facebook or MySpace profile picture, we would use Photoshop or a similar programme to quickly erase blemishes, fine lines, or any other imperfections. Even today, the ‘Hollywood touch-up’ in glossy magazines is the most popular way to shrink a waistline or remove under-eye bags.

However, a worrying new trend in the quest for the perfect profile picture has developed. For some, it is not enough to simply un-tag or delete unflattering photos, and for these few, the ‘Facebook Facelift’ is the answer.

The Facebook Facelift trend is growing in popularity, shown by an increase in the number of people who resort to aesthetic surgery because they are displeased with their appearance on social networking sites. In fact, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) noted a 71% increase in the number of chin augmentations in 2011/12, and some UK surgeons estimating that 20 patients per month will request facelift procedures in order to look attractive online. And the trend has even reached worldwide status, with a similar number of patients per month in India requesting aesthetic interventions for this reason.

Social media has certainly taken over the way in which we interact with one another, and the way in which we perceive our peers, find a mate, and even do business: earlier this year, the American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery (AAFPRS) found that social media now plays a significant role in peoples’ decisions to undergo elective surgery.

The Society’s study found that there was a 31% increase in requests for surgery as a result of social media photo sharing, with rhinoplasty, Botox and facelifts topping the list of ‘most requested’.

While this is great for the industry — an industry which has proved recession-proof at the worst of times — there is a worry that the motivations of patients aren’t necessarily genuine and reinforce the idea of the industry as vanity focused.

True, people wanting to look better has its place, and we are also able to give self-confidence to those patients in whom it was lacking (as well as reconstructing post-injury, etc.), but my concern is that by helping people to improve their appearance only in Facebook pictures, we are neglecting real life; that is, life with human, face-to-face contact.

The Internet certainly has an importance — as does social media — but we mustn’t neglect the value of life away from the computer screen, and should encourage the same attitude in our patients. Much like body dysmorphic disorder (BDD), in which the person has a preoccupation with an imagined or slight deficit, the way we appear in our profile pictures shouldn’t impact on our desire for aesthetic surgery. Many people tell me I look better in person than in the picture above, but I haven’t sought to change the way I look so that I photograph better.