So many of the women who follow us and participate in our forums love sharing their results after surgery, usually in the form of a selfie. It shows how they feel about their results and helps other women to know what’s actually possible on real women of different ages, sizes and ethnicity. I’ve even been known to post the odd selfie after a procedure because I’m so happy with the outcome! So, should your post-operative selfies be banned?
You might be surprised to discover that some Plastic Surgeons are seeking to limit how many of these real results you can see.
Recently the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons sent a survey to all members as part of their process to formulate a new ethical Guideline to govern marketing. The survey asked their 400+ members for their views on social media and to rate a number of images, including post-operative selfies and stock images.
Apparently, the intention is to tackle the issue of low self-esteem and body image issues for women.
But not everyone shares the view that the selfies are the root of all evil when it comes to the complex psychology of women and their body image.
Amber Moncrieff, Director of Hunter Plastic Surgery and wife of Dr Nick Moncrieff in Newcastle believes this is a well-intentioned but potentially dangerous form of censorship. “I believe that women communicate, research and make decisions in a very different way to even 10 years ago. Social media is part of our day to day toolkit, and we are savvy enough to follow or unfollow pages we want to, based on the content we want to see.
“To try to limit what women can post, and their clinics can then repost, will reduce the amount of real information women want before making decisions, and that vacuum will be filled by others less qualified.
“I believe cosmetic surgeons must be rubbing their hands together with glee that Plastic Surgeons seem to want to tie one hand behind their backs and not express what they do and the outcomes in a way that is relevant to women in their 20s, 30s, 40s and beyond.”
Does this mean all is well when it comes to social media and the plastic surgery industry? Not according to Mrs Moncrieff who has recommended ways all surgeons could improve to enhance informed decision making and ethical outcomes.
“There are definitely some issues in our industry on social media, which I’ve raised directly with ASPS. Principally, failure to comply with the existing government rules around the use of testimonials, the “stalking” of patients from other clinics on social media and the wholesale use of stock images of models. These are often caused when surgeons don’t want to do their own social media, and they outsource to agencies who aren’t invested in the need for ethics in our industry.
“Surely a stock image of a young model on a beach in America who has never had children, let alone surgery, which is used to promote a mummy makeover is far more misleading and damaging to self-esteem than a photo of a real mum we re-post after she has experienced surgery with us?
“I’ve put together some proposals including ASPS members agreeing annually to comply with the existing laws governing advertising, that they refrain from stalking the patients of other clinics, that they make sure their marketing agencies comply too and that they make it clear when a stock image is being used (so people know it isn’t a patient). But perhaps the most important recommendation is that every Plastic Surgeon should be required to publish 10 proper clinical before and after photos a year if they use social media. If women can’t see a number of real results, then that is when things truly do become misleading!”
Dr Amira Sanki, respected Plastic Surgeon from Sydney, NSW says she is for and against the publication of post-operative selfies. “A selfie shows that a patient is proud of their result and their journey. It also shows that they are proud of their surgeon choice. However, a selfie is not necessarily a clear before and after and should be accompanied by the patient’s clinical photos.
“Women have been historically exposed to many forces that influence their body image, from oil paintings to magazines. Social media has taken this to a scary level of psychological bombardment. We need to educate our patients, friends and daughters to learn how to turn off their device and to appreciate the difference between reality and the false promise of a perfect body image.
“Patients have a right to choose a surgeon whose ethics are aligned with their own. If they don’t like the surgeon’s use of soft porn photos, then they have the right to pick a surgeon who uses more conservative images in their social media.”
Another high profile Australian Plastic Surgeon Dr Anh Nguyen from Perth in WA agrees. In her open letter to WA Medical Forum responding to the Sydney Morning Herald’s article, she says, “I personally believe that social media provides a tool for plastic surgeons to showcase their work, share their patients’ stories and provide a platform for open honest discussion, information, and education. This is important for patients today when they are selecting who to trust.
“To assume patients are swayed by advertisements and generic or stock images is an oversight of how discerning our potential patients are. They look for experience and qualifications such as a FRACS and to see if they are a member of the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS).”
We’d love to hear your thoughts. Post a comment below or perhaps we need to start a #FreeTheSelfie campaign by using this tag next time you post a post-operative selfie!