We can all agree that our pre-teen years were some of our most awkward and difficult. But, the integration of social media and the increased access to the Internet has definitely changed the way kids grow up these days. So, while we may have penned our insecurities in the likes of a janky-lock diary, tweens now go online to air their emotions. As part of an emerging trend, young girls are using YouTube, posting videos asking if they are pretty or ugly. And, while our diaries couldn't ever respond to us, you better believe the anonymous avatars of the web answer these girls.
As an editor at Slate points out, a quick search of "Am I pretty or ugly" on YouTube yields over 500,000 results. The videos feature girls seeking validation, and their pleas of "just be honest" and "I just want to know" are enough to make you want to cry. Some clips are short — just 23 seconds long — while others involve a more indulgent rant about the circumstances that have caused them to come to YouTube. Some associate their alleged ugliness with their peers calling them "sluts," or with the loss of friends.
Slate cites research that indicates these videos began appearing in 2011, growing in popularity over the past two years. They've been described by experts as a "self-destructive coping mechanism" or a "new form of self-mutilation." Now, British performance artist Louise Orwin has created an art project based on the videos, "Pretty Ugly." Part video series, part live performance, the show is currently headlining at the Camden People's Theatre's new feminist festival, "Calm down, dear." If you're in London, the show runs through November 9.
There is another problem at the heart of these videos — one that we've all discussed before, but hoped would never come to fruition. If young girls are continually exposed to distorted, unrealistic portrayals of beauty, they may be unable to navigate the nuances of what it means to be truly beautiful. And, when there's an entire Internet community eager to judge us on our appearance, it can be easy to give into the impulse to find out what they really think about us.(Slate)