Why are today’s young women creating nude images of themselves for online consumption on Instagram and similar apps? Are they advertising something we don’t know of besides themselves and their bodies? Why would ordinary women want to portray themselves in glamorous images knowing that the majority of them look unrealistically fake and quixotically ugly?
This article reveals the secret behind young people’s latest addiction to recreate artificial images of themselves for online consumption, posing and lighting themselves as if advertising something — and, often, happily self-objectifying, and enjoying the satisfaction of making their lives, and themselves in the process, look like luxury items for sale in a virtual marketplace.
You can also watch it on my YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCp6X5St45o2h1CSLnZcbLbQ
Doing “Rich-People Stuff”
For years now, young people, mainly women, have been remorselessly trying to recreate artificial images of themselves for online consumption, posing and lighting themselves as if advertising something — and, often, happily self-objectifying, and enjoying the satisfaction of making their lives, and themselves in the process, look like luxury items for sale in a virtual marketplace.
Their goal is obviously to succeed in doing “rich-people stuff.” But all they triumphed at has been to reposition themselves as luxury goods at best and to misrepresent themselves as consumer items totally different from what they actually aspire to be.
By portraying an imaginary feminine ideal, and by posting naked photos of themselves on social media, they think they’re actually empowering women — while, in fact, they’re doing exactly the opposite. What they fail to realize is that objectifying the rich and famous does not turn them into the person they’re trying to model.
I do admit that it must be “brave” of them to display their naked bodies emerging undressed from a Rolls-Royce, or writhing on the sand in a bikini the Britney Spears way, or imitating a French dancer by hanging from their hair in a garage in their undergarments, but what they fail to realize is that such display would only succeed in shutting down the critical faculties that could help them notice that what they’re doing is sometimes dumb and in other instances totally unnatural and idiotically hilarious.
And if they failed to notice that by now, then there must be something very wrong with them, or with the rest of us ignorant or old fashioned — who am I to judge.
By living up to these images of glamour, these young women on Instagram try to cast their ordinariness as a kind of relatable failure. What they don’t realize is that it’s okay to fail to live up to a look.
The Rise of the ‘Instagram Face’
Dr. Stephanie Damiano from the Butterfly Foundation says the more younger women engage with photo-based social media platforms, the more likely they are to experience body dissatisfaction.
This experience of body dissatisfaction has given rise to a new look, and this new look has a name — it’s called the Instagram face. Writing in The New Yorker, writer Jia Tolentino describes it as “a young face, of course, with poreless skin and plump, high cheekbones. It has catlike eyes and long, cartoonish lashes; it has a small, neat nose and full, lush lips”, adding that the face can be “distinctly white but ambiguously ethnic”.
This new trend is causing some young females to want to permanently change their facial features through cosmetic procedures. Researchers from the University of Monash, here in Australia, recently interviewed 34, 16–18-year-olds and found that even the youngest among them wanted to get cosmetic procedures to make them look like their filtered Instagram face selfies.
Other studies from China and the United States supported this trend. Research undertaken by the John Hopkins School of Medicine surveyed 252 people only to find that they had “an increased acceptance of cosmetic surgery”. Most of them said they didn’t feel good about themselves when they compared themselves to themselves in filters. They said that the Instagram face made them more anxious with a low self-image. Some of these apps promised an ‘Instagram-perfect’ body, which made matters even worse. They are capable of slimming waists and enlarging breasts in just a few seconds. But these touch-ups always come at a cost.
The apps are growing in popularity, and they’re not going away anytime soon. And while they are fun, they can make young females vulnerable and insecure about their looks when bombarded with beautiful faces.
These apps are now common across social media. Instagram bundles beauty filters with its other augmented-reality facial filters. Snapchat offers a gallery of filters where users can swipe through beauty-enhancing effects on their selfie camera. TikTok’s own beauty filter, called “Enhance,” enables instant beautification. Facebook and Instagram alone claim that over 600 million people have used at least one of their augmented reality effects.
Playing ‘GOD’ With Technology
Today, according to Bloomberg, almost a fifth of Facebook’s employees — about 10,000 people — are working on augmented reality or virtual reality products. Snapchat boasts its own stunning numbers. The company recently said that 200 million daily active users use its app to transform the way they look.
Most of these applications are created by third-party creators. In 2019, more than 400,000 of them released over 1.2 million effects. A year later, more than 150 creators’ accounts had each passed the one billion views milestone.
Many young people enjoy their filters and lenses, while others find them so overwhelming that they attempt suicide, just to come out of their reality, and their reality can sometimes be very dark. Filters sometimes give them a breakthrough. They give them a chance to experiment, to try on different makeup, to try a new dress or a piece of jewelry they know they can never own. They create a beautiful world for them, one that illuminates their screens, one that makes them feel alive, but one that could write a new chapter of their story with mental illness, and its ending with suicide.
It’s nice sometimes to play with technology, but it becomes annihilating when technology becomes God. Technology is not only filtering young people’s images; it’s filtering their whole lives.
And this new trend is only just beginning. An app called Facetune is said to have been downloaded over 60 million times. Presets are a recent phenomenon in which creators and influencers sell custom filters in Adobe Lightroom. Even Zoom has a “touch up my appearance” feature that gives the appearance of smoother skin in video calls.
I conducted my own survey on LinkedIn only to find that most people between the ages of 18 and 24 wanted the same thing: “Small nose, big eyes, clear skin, big lips.” And this is exactly what augmented reality does through two effects known as “deformation” and “face distortion.” They easily change facial features, creating a “bigger lip,” a “lifted eyebrow,” or a “narrower jaw.” A distortion filter called Naomi Beauty on Snapchat, which is considered one of the tops clears your skin and makes your eyes huge.
But there are thousands of other distortion filters, with names like La Belle, Natural Beauty, and Boss Babe. Even the goofy Big Mouth on Snapchat, one of the social media’s most popular filters, is made with distortion effects.
For young people, who are still working out who they are, navigating between a digital and authentic self can be particularly complicated, and it’s not clear what the long-term consequences will be.