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No, Your Nose Isn’t as Big as That Selfie Makes It Seem

If you take a selfie from just 12 inches away, it may make your nose look 30 percent bigger

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smithsonian.com

After their surge in popularity, selfie sticks gained a number of opponents concerned with the safety and security of their use, not to mention the open displays of narcissism. They've even been banned in many locations—from Disney properties in Orlando to anywhere in Milan, Italy.

But selfie sticks might help alleviate one of the many problems with self-picture taking: As Nicola Davis reports for The Guardian, they could help give a more accurate representation of your face. A new study suggests that selfies taken too close can make your nose appear up to 30 percent larger than it is in reality.

Boris Paskhover, who specializes in facial plastic surgery at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, says he frequently has patients show him selfies to explain why they want the size of their nose reduced, according to a press release. In response, he will take a photo of them at the proper distance, which is about five feet, to give them a more accurate representation of their face.

“Young adults are constantly taking selfies to post to social media and think those images are representative of how they really look, which can have an impact on their emotional state,” he says. “I want them to realize that when they take a selfie they are in essence looking into a portable funhouse mirror.”

To help convince people their close-in selfies are not accurate, Paskhover teamed up with Ohad Fried, research fellow at Stanford University’s computer science department, to create a mathematical model to show how differences in the distance of the camera can influence the subject's proportions. The research appears in the journal JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery.

As Brandon Specktor at LiveScience reports, the team modeled the average faces of both men and women, breaking them down into a group of parallel planes. The were then able to calculate the amount of distortion produced by taking an arms-length selfie (12 inches) versus a portrait-distance photo (five feet).

“Predictably, an image taken at five feet, a standard portrait distance, results in essentially no difference in perceived [nasal] size,” the authors write. But images taken at 12 inches result in the nose appearing 30 percent larger for average males and 29 percent larger for average females.

“If the camera point is closer to something that projects out, like your nose, it is going to make everything that is closer to that camera look bigger compared to the rest of the face,” Paskover tells Davis.

This selfie distortion hasn’t gone unnoticed—in fact, it's become a public health issue. According to the release, a recent poll by The American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery found 55 percent of people visiting a plastic surgeon report that, at least in part, they want a procedure to improve the look of their selfies. According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, last year there were 218,924 nose-reshaping procedures in the United States, part of the 1.8 million cosmetic surgeries performed in 2017. 

“One of my concerns is, I don't want society in general to be distorted,” Paskhover tells Specktor. “I don't want people to think. ‘This is what I look like,’ when they see a selfie. You don't look like that — you look good.”

In recent years, according to some reports, selfie-stick sales have declined with over 70 percent of people saying they feel foolish while using them. If you're not into the selfie stick—or in an area where they're banned—it might at least be worth asking someone to take the photo for you. The indignity of asking is likely less embarrassing than living with an unnecessary nose job.

About Jason Daley

Jason Daley is a Madison, Wisconsin-based writer specializing in natural history, science, travel, and the environment. His work has appeared in Discover, Popular Science, Outside, Men’s Journal, and other magazines.

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