Facetune: you on a stunning day, or you in the grip of self-sabotage?

Facetune: you on a stunning day, or you in the grip of self-sabotage?

Souls are being lost – to the widening chasms between real life and online, self-styled avatars.

This was never going to be an easy brief. Let’s get people to talk about how much they fib in the pictures they put online! Right.

Nevertheless, I posted a call to arms on Facebook, didn’t I? Take a moment to notice how ‘face’ prefixes abound in social media. Clearly – and despite Meghan Trainor’s assertion – we’re all about that face.

Every brave respondent on my timeline didn’t know the app. Each well-meaning mate gave me a written shoulder shrug – a “Sorry Becks, never heard of it”. Ah, blissful ignorance!

Had I honestly expected a genuine, jubilant “Why yes, I use Facetune religiously! I am insecure and vain, you see. I take time to doctor every photo before presenting it in the open forum!” would appear?

I know what Facetune is.

I’ve known about Facetune since its launch in 2013, as I’m sure most of my performer friends have. Why should I expect them to ‘fess up? It’s like cocaine in the white collar world – people use. They just don’t talk about using.

Back in the day, before Instagram and YouTube, you’d send off a CV and headshot for dance castings. (Yes, on paper, in the post!) The headshot was black-and-white, taken by a known industry photographer. You waited a week or so while they did magical, expensive “retouching” wizardry on your chosen image. Your head looked a lot – a LOT – better when you got your parcel of photos back.

I’m not alone in knowing there’s now a cheeky £3.99 app for that. Selfie headshots! Royal Mail? Outdated, thank you!

Here’s a two-minute Facetune effort. I timed myself. Behold, my morning face! And yup, this was the first photo taken. (Didn’t take my eye-makeup off last night, did I? It happens.)

Let’s analyse: hair bigger, face thinner, eyebrows added, eyes bigger, eyes whiter, skin extensively smoothed, spot removed (top lip), skin pigmentation altered (chin), face reshaped to address symmetry, extra smoothing (right eye), ‘detail’ added to make eyes pop, ‘fulvous’ filter applied at 38% strength.

And I could have continued. This is far from my best work.

Persisters, the days of sending photos in the post are over. People have social media presences to uphold now. You’re expected to publish such photos not to one recipient, but to everyone (like I just did).

The Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation’s homepage (bddfoundation.org) shows a picture of a man taking a selfie. In place of his phone is the word ‘FREAK’, obstructing his entire face. On its website, the foundation states that about 25% of specialist BDD clinic attendees had tried to commit suicide. Souls are being lost here – to the widening chasms between real life and online, self-styled avatars.

The BBC visited Facetune’s headquarters in 2014. It had already sold extensively in over 100 countries. Facetune started as five students working in a garage in Israel. They tested the app on friends and – when they ran out of friends – co-creator Nir Pochter said, “We found a store that sold cheap beer and offered students free beers to participate in usability tests. We made sure they loved what they saw”.

Quite. But what of the repercussions amongst these students today? What does it mean to hand someone beauty with the swipe of a finger?

This is where I delegate to a friend and former dance colleague, Angi Oates. Angi voices it better than I ever could. Neither of us accept the “Whatever makes you happy! A nip here, tuck there, no harm done!” option. It’s not our truth. The following is all Angi:

‘What I’m really like is “Please stop. Please. Just. Stop yourself.”

Frankly, I think it’s horribly corrosive to one’s self esteem. How, pray tell, once you have tweaked and primped and preened yourself to within an inch of your Facetuned self, can you ever look in the mirror and be satisfied with your real-world, unvarnished and unenhanced self ever again? All you will notice are your flaws – your perceived imperfections. Hopefully, as we age and grow wiser we know that our imperfections are what make us beautiful. That and Hot Yoga. A bit of lippy? Yes. Realistic. A touch of blush? Sure! False eyelashes? Only for stage. Changing the shape of your face, the width of your nose, the colour of your skin? That’s for the birds. I believe no good can come of it. Only dissatisfaction and discontent and the world needs less of that, not more.

Oh, the masks we don to prevent the world from seeing our TRUE selves. Are we so hideous? So unbecoming, even to ourselves, that we must continually present a false image? How then to recover, when even the image of the image we present, is fake?! Small wonder depression and anxiety are the status quo. What a sad reflection of society that we must now hit panic mode if we happen to have our photo taken by someone who hasn’t had the foresight to download and use the Facetune app! Way to pile even more pressure on an already piss-awful time trying to figure out who you are and where you fit in on this monopoly board of life. I shout a loud and defiant “HELL NO!” to the tuning of the face! Tuning is for pianos. Tuning is for guitars. Possibly cars. Leave my face un-tuned.’

Despite the obvious response (correct, Angi is a legend) her words made me realise another thing: we cannot have it both ways. We can’t bemoan and denounce airbrushing in the likes of Elle and Vogue if we simply sneak off to perform our own little digital deception dance. That is not what a sister does – much less a feminist. It is what someone who needs to make themselves a cup of hypocrite tea does. Poo-pooing the streamlining of Rihanna’s derriere or the lengthening of Britney’s legs isn’t OK if we scuttle away and do it to our own photos. If you stand for something, stand for it, Persister!

One final thought: When I was 14, I remember seeing the Saturday supplement one morning, in the bathroom. A picture of Cindy Crawford in a blue gown lit up the cover. (I even remember the gown!) My gaze went from Cindy to the bathroom mirror and my own pubescent mug, a blossoming boil midway up my nose. Back down to Cindy. Back to my reflection, only now there were tears in the eyes of the idiot teenager staring back. Effing Crawford – impossibly beautiful! Who did I think I was, hoping to have a career on the stage looking so God-awful?!

Teenagers across the world still cry in bathrooms. Today, it’s not just one face they see on a magazine cover – it’s thousands of faces as they scroll through their phones. Might your tweaked, unattainable, unreal face be one of them?

Is the better global citizen one who presents a living lie online, or one who chooses to live this messy, silly, painful, beautiful life with a healthy disregard for the clearness of their skin and the tightness of their thighs?

For what it’s worth, I will not be conducting that two-minute Facetune routine again. I’m lucky – I have a loving boyfriend who tells me I’m pretty and a supportive family. But that’s not the reason. Whenever I start obsessing over my imperfect face in that way, I revisit my 14-year-old self and cry. And life’s too short for that shit.

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