There is no longer any doubt that the future is hybrid. It is now everywhere: hybrid work (worldwide and across industries, 9 out of 10 organizations are switching to it); hybrid events (a given); hybrid food (a protein mix of animal cells and plants); and hybrid transportation (fostered by the dramatic improvement in battery technology and extending now to shipping). The list goes on. It even includes hybrid “improbable” categories such as hybrid weddings, expanding fast in the US. The simplest takeaway: (1) The digital transformation will accelerate further and wider across the board. Beware of companies that are laggards; (2) Pay attention to second-round effects, like the impact of hybrid work on commercial real estate.

It goes without saying that wellness is no exception, and its future is hybrid as well. Digital applications and solutions for wellness proliferate, but one dimension has a darker side: the role and rise of wellness and beauty influencers. Wellness influencers—who post and monetize wellness content online—are everywhere (a quick search on Google for “wellness influencers” yields around 18 million results) and gaining ever more traction. The phenomenon manifests itself with acuity in the field of beauty. There are now “professionally beautiful women” who are successful vloggers and are imposing new beauty standards known as “Instagram faces” that are hard, if not indeed impossible, to emulate (very thin faces and slim legs; poreless skin; long lashes; a small, neat, nose; and high cheekbones). The models Bella Hadid and Emily Ratajkowski (who have 42 and 27 million followers, respectively, on Instagram) crystallize this rising trend.

Ninety-five percent of the most-followed people on Instagram use Facetune (a filter that tweaks images), and 95% of them have also had at least one, if not more, cosmetic procedure. What to make of this? Ideals of female (and increasingly male, as well) beauty are now based on a frenzy of constant, social media-facilitated visual exposure of unrealistic and often unreal norms and broadcasting that imposes an equally constant propensity to self-improve.

As Jia Tolentino (a journalist and author) put it in an article in the New Yorker published before the pandemic: “For those born with assets—natural assets, capital assets, or both—it can seem sensible, even automatic, to think of your body the way that a McKinsey consultant would think about a corporation: identify underperforming sectors and remake them, discard whatever doesn’t increase profits, and reorient the business toward whatever does.” How to reconcile this rising obsession about “Instagram-manufactured beauty” with subjective wellbeing? A growing and significant proportion of the $1 trillion+ “personal care, beauty, and anti-aging” business (the largest wellness component of the wellness industry) is now being held hostage to a naturally unattainable, “cyborgian” look!

A phenomenon that partly stems from the above is the explosion of aesthetic treatments and cosmetic procedures dubbed “Zoom Boom.” Surgeons call it that because it seems that online conversations have forced us to see ourselves from a new, unforgiving perspective: Zoom and other similar tools cause dysmorphia, and seeing our faces on screen has exposed asymmetries, folds and other “defects” (an acronym has even appeared: RBF—“Resting Bitch Face”) that many have decided to try and correct through surgery, mainly with rhinoplasty, lip fillers, eyelid surgery and laser treatments.

Data still remains too scarce, and it’s too early to measure this global new phenomenon, but plenty of anecdotal evidence and a rising number of articles in medical journals indicate that it is happening in many countries around the world and affects all ages. According to the co-authors of a recent paper published in a medical journal, 57% of a group of dermatology providers in the US have reported an increase in the number of patients seeking cosmetic consultations compared with the period preceding the pandemic; and within this group, 83% noted that their patients reported “being somewhat more or significantly more unhappy with their appearance since using video conferencing during the pandemic” (the word “unhappiness” has to be highlighted: how to square it with wellness?). Will this new phenomenon endure? If WFH is here to stay, which for a significant majority will at least part time be the case, then the answer is yes!

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