Today in Silly Health Scares: Looking at Your Phone Makes Your Face Saggy


Don't believe a word of it. Or if you do, take it with a very large grain of salt.

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This just in, from the Department of Dumb Logical Fallacies: your face is going all droopy, and your electronics are to blame:

Our growing reliance on smartphones and laptops is elongating our faces into jowly, sagging messes, according to cosmetic surgeons and other beauty pundits. They've even come up with a suitably distressing name for this phenomenon: "Smartphone face."

You read that right: "Smartphone face." The condition is evidently characterized by sagging jowls, double chins, and "'marionette lines,' those vertical creases that run from the corners of the mouth towards the chin." As evidence for the widening epidemic, The Week cites the astonishing rise in chin surgeries that's gripped the developed world in recent years. Chin implants are a $38 million-a-year industry, and last year alone, surgeons performed one mentoplasty every 25 minutes.

Judging by the exploding popularity of chinjobs, screen-induced droopiness must be a clinical ailment worthy of our collective alarm!

To which we say: really?

While the mentoplasty numbers are indeed factual, it's hard to say the same for the rest of it. So much of this smells completely wrong. Let's start with the fact that counting chinjobs has got to be the worst way of proving the existence of a health condition, much less assessing its prevalence. The popularity of a surgical procedure -- a cosmetic procedure, at that -- does not a diagnosis make.

Leaning on the surgery statistics is problematic for a related reason: it doesn't rule out other explanations for mentoplasty. It could be that people always had slightly saggy chins but didn't realize it until they started looking at their Google Hangout reflections all the time (who am I kidding? I meant Skype, of course). Or maybe the peculiar way in which we look down at our devices, combined with the eerie glow of our screens, combine to create a visual illusion of disfigurement. Or perhaps chin surgeries are spreading like wildfire for no other reason than that everyone else seems to be getting them -- so why not me, too?

Then there's the reddest red flag: the guy who's warning the world about this new threat is -- you guessed it -- a cosmetic surgeon. Given that there's no public health risk associated with looking down (that we know of, knock on wood), that leaves altruism and the economic motive as the only two realistic factors that could explain the surgeons' urgent exhortations.

And if you're still concerned, you can at least rest easy knowing you won't end up like this.

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Brian Fung is the technology writer at National Journal. He was previously an associate editor at The Atlantic and has written for Foreign Policy and The Washington Post.

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