The world of social media is a brave new world, indeed. The little apps on our phones have given us the ability to hold people close from a long distance, organize world changing demonstrations, and watch cat GIFs all night long when insomnia strikes. There are celebrities who use social media to connect with fans, and ordinary people who use social media to become celebrities.
One of the most popular Snapchat accounts these days isn’t a Kardashian, nor is it someone who once dated a Kardashian. It’s a plastic surgeon. Michael “Dr. Miami” Salzhauer is a Miami cosmetic surgeon who’s gained internet fame by snapping surgical procedures live. Vanity Fair profiled the Snapchat sensation in their new issue.
Before any of you attorneys out there start readying a list of HIPAA-related lawsuits, keep in mind that the good doctor gets the OK from each patient featured on Snapchat before they go under the knife. This is consistent with American Medical Association directives that surgery only be filmed with express written consent of the patient.
I’m a big fan of TV shows about surgery, so I hopped right on over to @therealdrmiami to see what all the buzz was about. Now, as the child of a surgeon and a nurse, I have a pretty high gross-out threshold. It takes a lot to make me wince. But I’ll admit that watching a wisecracking doctor relocate a woman’s nipple while hip-hop music thumped in the background got to me a bit. These snaps are not Made-For-TV. They’re more like Made-For-Medical-School. It’s real. Really real.
Dr. Salzhauer says he’s had patients come to see him as a result of having seen his snaps. They get inspired by the transformations he creates — and I’ll be the first to say that the before and after shots are nothing short of extraordinary.
But I had a very different reaction from those patients. I literally found myself cradling my breasts as I watched the doctor remove skin during a breast lift, knowing I would never want the world to see me so vulnerable. Moreover, I never want to actually be that vulnerable, snap or no snap.
Dr. Miami lays people bare, down past the skin, and rearranges their flesh and blood and fat into a new shape. Is this good? Is it bad? Is it moral? Is it the patriarchy? Or is it surgeon as sculptor, Pygmalion with a scalpel? Whatever it is, it’s popular. And in the social media game, that’s the most important part.