Like My Face! How Our Selfie Obsession Has Turned Looking Good Into Fight for Internet Fame

The need to look good online led to airbrushing apps, and even plastic surgery.

ByABC News
April 21, 2014, 1:51 PM

April 21, 2014— -- The art of capturing the perfect selfie has created a whole new self-marketing industry: from smartphone apps that help users look their best to agencies looking for the next Internet star.

Think you look too fat? Try Skinnee Pix. Do you have dull skin or blemishes? Facetune can clear that right up. And if you just plain hate the way the photo came out, don’t worry because that can all be fixed. Perfect365 app allows users to airbrush selfie photos into instant cover girl perfection.

How to Take the Perfect ‘Selfie’ on Your Phone

But for many, it’s no longer good enough to just “be yourself” online, and selfie lovers want to put their best face forward.

"The days of that bare fresh face, no retouching, are kind of behind us. I think we're all moving into an era that it's so easy to do," image and fashion consultant Lori Ann Robinson said.

Like millions of people, Triana Lavey loves taking selfies, but doesn’t always love the result. She uses the Perfect365 app to touch up her photos now, but she used to hate the way she looked so much that she underwent a radical transformation, all to look better online.

Lavey said she didn’t like the face staring back at her during Skype chats or in Facebook photos. So two years ago, she underwent $15,000 worth of plastic surgery from Beverly Hills surgeon Dr. Richard Ellenbogen to change the shape of her face. Because Lavey is a family friend, she got the procedures at a discount.

“Nightline” followed her story in 2012, as Lavey underwent a nose job, a chin implant and fat grafting.

“To me, plastic surgery should be a last-ditch effort,” she said at the time. “After you have worked out, after you've good discipline in your diet and exercise then you go to surgery.”

Lavey acknowledges that plastic surgery was a radical step, but she believed it was worth it and was thrilled with the results.“I now have the face that I always thought that I had,” she said. “I look like myself, but Photoshopped.”

But in her quest for the picture-perfect face, Lavey said she’s not done with medical enhancements. Since “Nightline” last spoke to her, Lavey said she has had corrective surgery on her nose, more fat-grafting and Botox.

Lavey said the plastic surgery wasn’t just an ego boost. Taking a good selfie has become a high-stakes business, as people have become “Insta-Lebrities” through their posts on Instagram, YouTube and other social outlets.

“Today this business is moving at the speed of the Internet,” Lavey said. “Your selfie is your head shot so you can reinvent yourself every day with your iPhone. It’s a legitimate form of promoting yourself.”

Lavey is the senior talent manager for the uFluencer Group, a Los Angeles-based public relations firm that specializes in developing social media talent. It’s one of several companies devoted to finding the next big star online. Lavey manages the careers of Internet stars like makeup guru Nicole Guerriero.

“Their presence and use of selfies is a huge marketing tool that keeps them connected to the fan base and when it really comes down to social media, taste makers and trend setters [are] the access, through social media,” Lavey said. “The idea of a fan being able to live alongside or be friends with these celebrities through social media is really a powerful tool.”

And although she uses the Perfect365 app, she believes the apps make it harder for her to feel good about the way she looks in real life.

“I think using these apps and filtering and all of it, it skews our perception of how we should look I think it’s making ourselves hold ourselves to a higher unrealistic standard,” she said. “When you do see a picture of yourself hanging out, your instinct is, ‘oh I wish I were tanner or not wrinkled’ or ‘wish this’ and this is a natural response due to the culture we’re gearing towards.’”

But she believes there is nothing wrong with trying to look her best.

“Not everyone is born beautiful,” Lavey said, “and if you can get a little help from an app or a nip-tuck then more power to you.”