If you’re going to read one article about the past decade, let it be Jia Tolentino‘s incredible piece about the rise of the “Instagram Face”. HOO BOY, is it excellent but also tremendously defeating.
If you’ve got a couple minutes, read it – all of it, particularly the end, because there’s a very great chance you’ll relate to it. In summary: Tolentino flies to L.A. to dig into “The Age Of Instagram Face”. You absolutely know what and who she’s talking about – Kim Kardashian West, Kylie Jenner, Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner, and Emily Ratajkowski… and how they’ve influenced all those influencers and how said influencers kinda, sorta look the same.
To do this, Tolentino talks to a celebrity makeup artist and plastic surgeons. One plastic surgeon tells Tolentino that if you look close enough, you’ll see “elements in common”.
“The high contoured cheekbones, the strong projected chin, the flat platform underneath the chin that makes a ninety-degree angle.”
The entire piece feels familiar and none of it is really surprising, which is just a tad discomforting. There’s also talk about FaceTune, how beauty procedures like botox have become mainstream, and the seemingly constant perfecting of our faces.
This line: “You get the feeling that these women, or their assistants, alter photos out of simple defensive reflex, as if FaceTuning your jawline were the Instagram equivalent of checking your eyeliner in the bathroom of the bar.”
And this line:
I couldn’t shake the feeling that technology is rewriting our bodies to correspond to its own interests—rearranging our faces according to whatever increases engagement and likes.
In absolutely no surprise whatsoever, the article is going off its clackers on social media. Not because it’s brand new information but because of how real this has all become.
Author Jami Attenberg tweeted: “I mean this piece by @jiatolentino was amazing but also it made me want to FIGHT A WAR.”
Bitch Media co-founder Andi Zeisler described the article as “so good and so infuriating.
“And it’s wild that we ever believed technology might actually free us from unattainable beauty standards.”
Another reader tweeted: “This article captures a lot of the reason I mostly stay away from Instagram. The endless rabbit holes of surreally beautiful and altered women’s faces and bodies really affects my mental health in a massively negative way.”
I went to Beverly Hills and posed as a would-be patient at the offices of the top celebrity plastic surgeons to see what I could learn about the arms race between digital and physical improvement that is Instagram Face https://t.co/kw9I6qfM8y pic.twitter.com/w87WhesB2u
— Jia Tolentino (@jiatolentino) December 12, 2019
There’s a bit in the article where Tolentino is speaking to a plastic surgeon. She tells readers that she recently downloaded Snapchat for the first time and tried out the filters – the ones that make you look real bloody good. Tolentino literally showed the doctor a filtered photo of her from Snapchat and Doc nodded and took the conversation from there.
In 2018, dermatologists from the Boston University of Medicine and Boston Medical Centre noted an increase in patients who wanted plastic surgery based on what they saw in apps like Snapchat and FaceTune.
“A new phenomenon, dubbed ‘Snapchat dysmorphia,’ has patients seeking out cosmetic surgery to look like filtered versions of themselves instead, with fuller lips, bigger, eyes, or a thinner nose,” they wrote. “This is an alarming trend because those filtered selfies often present an unattainable look and are blurring the line of reality and fantasy for these patients.”
The authors of the paper concluded that apps like Snapchat and FaceTune are “providing a new reality of beauty for today’s society.” And that apps like these are making us lose touch with reality because “we expect to look perfectly primped and filtered in real life as well.”
And look, as much as we want to push back against this, we really don’t think we can.