After seeing Dr. Miami’s practice take off (and a failed attempt at trying to make Periscope happen), Matthew Schulman, MD, NYC board-certified plastic surgeon (@nycplasticsurg), also decided to give the Snap a try. “I was looking for a platform to show videos where I didn't have to worry about hiding a nipple or worrying about having to stay within specific time constraints,” he says. “At the time, I really didn't know that we were able to post stories. Like most people, at the beginning of the Snapchat days, I thought it was just a way to send naked pictures.” Now, his videos garner around 500,000 views each, and he’s up there on "best Snapchat accounts to follow" lists next to Dr. Miami. Dr. Schulman's Snap stories show him working on cases similar to his colleague's, but with way fewer jokes, shout-outs, or music — a deliberate move. “We're not putting on a show, we're trying to present the surgeries,” he says. “I'm trying to educate people, and I'm trying to do it in an entertaining way so that people aren't bored, but I'm not dressed up in costumes, we're not dancing around.”
For those who have their nausea in check, these videos are incredibly addictive, explains John Suler, PhD, a psychologist and author of Psychology of the Digital Age: Humans Become Electric. “It's the ‘gawker’ or ‘rubbernecking’ phenomenon, where people can't resist looking at disturbing things,” he says. “What the internet has done is made all these previously unusual and observable situations easily available to everyone... It has become a cultural addiction, with one symptom of addiction being increased tolerance. People need to see higher levels of unusual, and even disturbing, things in order to get a ‘high’ from it.” The length of the videos (usually a few seconds) makes them even more appealing to viewers, says Franklin Nii Amankwah Yartey, PhD, a communications professor at the University of Dubuque in Iowa. “The fleeting nature of the content that social apps like Snapchat have...provides an incentive for the public to consume content at a very fast rate... Some of us would rather watch short, entertaining snippets of content because we are in a hurry to watch the next viral video or snap. Thus, from the comfort of our homes and surroundings, we can consume the lives of others for entertainment, which may or may not have educational value,” he says. “For those that have access and the literacy to navigate these technologies, the high interactivity that these social apps offer keeps some audiences interested and glued to their screens.”
It's the ‘gawker’ or ‘rubbernecking’ phenomenon, where people can't resist looking at disturbing things.
Of course, with great internet power comes great responsibility — and critics. Daniel Maman, MD, of 740 Park Plastic Surgery is one of them. “To some degree, there's an educational component to [these videos] but the intention and the reason that people jumped on the bandwagon is for marketing purposes,” he says. “I think the appeal of these Snapchat accounts is that they're talking about non-surgical issues, are cracking jokes, wearing sunglasses, or wearing costumes in the [operating room]… I think that these surgeons have gone beyond what's ethically acceptable in the practice of safe surgery.”
I teach plastic-surgery residents, and as I'm teaching a resident...I'm talking them through the steps. So, doing that for the camera is no different.