If you search the phrase "Am I pretty or ugly?" on YouTube, you will receive "About 556,000" results. The video stills all feature young girls sitting alone in front of the camera. Descriptions all read along the lines of "Please tell me in comments," "I am so ugly," and "Be truthful please tell me." The thousands and thousands of videos reveal a sort of strange subculture of girls talking about school, boys, and of course, their appearance...to the entire internet.
Artist Louise Orwin is exploring this phenomenon with a new project titled "Pretty Ugly." In order to tackle the body image discussions that are happening via social media, Orwin has become a firsthand participant.
She created several different 15-year-old YouTube alter-egos, all posting the same style of video, but with individual personalities like "preppy" or "emo." The results, unfortunately, are not that surprising: "I got torrents of abuse," Orwin said.
When she analyzed the data behind the comments she received, the results showed that 70 percent of the comments came from men. Not only were they highly derogatory in nature, but "most of them were definitely over 18," Orwin added, referencing her clearly underage personas. Orwin said she would also receive messages from older men asking for more videos. Ew.
The comments from females, however, were almost exclusively provided by the under-18 crowd. This notion has left Orwin musing on the fact that social media has created a self-sustaining cycle of pressure among teenage girls. With a reblog, a tweet, a video...girls have unlimited power to recycle unhealthy images, words, and thoughts onto each other.
Yet, Louise Orwin's project is not simply a commentary on the state of affairs. She hopes her work is referenced as research that inspires real dialogue and potential change in the way we view and utilize social media. Check out the project's on-going blog and I promise that you will never take a selfie quite the same way ever again.
Image via Pretty or Ugly Blog