As if Photoshopped fashion spreads and in-person bullying aren’t enough, young girls and boys are turning to the Internet to ask the most vulnerable of teen questions: “Am I pretty or ugly?”
A batch of YouTube videos shows teenage and adolescent girls sitting expectantly in front of their computer monitors and asking Internet trolls for their “honest opinion,” a modern day version of “mirror, mirror on the wall.”
The top scorer with nearly 4 million views is a girl named Kendal, who was 14-years-old when she filmed her video last year. With a koala hat atop her heavily made-up face, Kendal hazards, “I just wanna make a random video, seeing if I was like, ugly or not because a lot of people call me ugly and I think I am ugly and fat.”
She flashes some photos – posing in a bathroom, making hearts with her hands and blowing kisses. Many commenters reassure Kendal of her looks, while others accuse her of fishing for compliments.
Another video, “Am I ugly?????” shows a girl with braces asking, “I don’t care if I’m ugly or not, I just wanted to know because I’ve been picked on a lot.”
The top comment reads: “Little Sister. this video really hurts my feelings to see you looking to youtube for validation.”
One distressing aspect (among many) is how young some girls appear: A baby-faced girl named Emily Mulligan looks about 10. She asks, “Am I ugly or pretty? Please tell the truth <3.”
Another girl looks about 11, with heavy eyeliner beneath a prominent forehead that one commenter assures her is reminiscent of Tyra Banks’.
“I have a question,” she says, wincing in pain. “People tell me all the time so, I don’t know. Is it true? People say I’m ugly. So, tell me. Am I?”
The video has garnered more than 276,000 views. Here too, the top comment is forceful: “I don’t want to live on this planet anymore.”
Teen boys are getting in on the action too. “ DamonFizzy,” a Bieber-esque boy with a prolific YouTube channel, posts a video with the title, “I’m ugly.”
“My self-esteem is the worst. I look in the mirror every day and I’m like, ‘Disgusting.’ I’ve always had really bad acne problems,” confesses the boy, who talks of yearning for self-confidence.
Like other teens, DamonFizzy uses YouTube and its faceless mass of trolls as therapy. He calls YouTube a “gateway” for his “crappy, horrible life” but insists the virtual confessions make him feel better.
The rash of pretty/ugly videos prompted one 21-year-old artist to record her own. Bangs in her face and a messy bedroom behind her, the woman (handle “Wickedlemons1”) asks viewers to “Leave a comment. You can be honest. Am I pretty? Am I ugly? I can take it, you can tell me.”
Four months after posting the video, the woman revealed that her post was a social experiment looking into “the struggles a girl transitioning into womanhood must go through.”
Her advice is this: “No one in middle school thinks they are pretty. Even the girls that you think are perfect are also insecure. ... The sooner you start loving yourself the sooner life gets easier. ... Now get off the internet and go eat ice cream!!!!”
What would you tell your kid if he or she posted this type of video on the Web?