As the Internet becomes more of a mirror for teenagers, the need for acceptance and validation becomes more pronounced. Take the phenomenon of “Am I pretty or ugly?” YouTube videos, which feature teenage girls asking that very question. This trend isn’t new. Recently, artist Louise Orwin turned the camera on herself and turned the trend into a piece of performance art, and now those videos are back in the news.
For teenage girls, opening themselves up for critique, especially on YouTube, can have devastating effects in an age of rampant cyberbullying. But teenage boys also have body image issues, writes Amanda Hess at Slate, and a new study shows they tend to turn to Reddit for feedback.
Recently, PsychGuides.com examined this phenomenon by analyzing 1,000 postings on the r/amiugly subbreddit, and found it isn’t a forum for ego-stroking, but rather “a place that appears to be filled with stories of genuine anxiety and insecurity.”
The study also found that four out of five people who submit their photo for critique are men, which could reflect estimates that 59 to 84 percent of redditors are male. Further data gives insight on age as well, stating that “the average Reddit user is about 25 years old, but the average redditor who submits their photo to ask if they’re ugly is 18 or 19. Only 3.5% of people on /r/amiugly are 25.”
More interesting, even though men seem to be the dominant posters, women get more responses to their queries: The ladies get an estimated 54 responses to each thread; men get only 14.
A look through recent posts on r/amiugly shows a heartbreaking number of guys holding up the mirror. One redditor recently wondered if the reason he’s never had a girlfriend is because he’s ugly:
About my looks, I have smallish, asymmetrical eyes and eyebrows, big nose, some acne [working on it], and little strange, small ears [not showed in photos]. Also eyes are kinda puffy but I started to work on it too.
The responses were mostly positive, and his virtual peers told him to shore up his confidence. Indeed, the ages of the men in recent posts largely fell between 16 and 24.
Even though women’s body image issues tend to get more attention and criticism, social media, especially for teenagers and those in their early twenties, has slowly become an equalizer in terms of dissecting and rebuilding self-esteem.
The takeaway is illuminating: Body image issues are universal, but manifest themselves in a unique left brain–right brain way on social media sites. Now we just have to start addressing them equally.