Search ‘Am I pretty?’ or ‘Am I ugly?’ online and you will find millions of links to photos of girls aged nine to 13 asking those very questions. Learn more about this disturbing trend for crowd-sourcing validation and how to safeguard your daughter.
When you were a teenager, you probably turned to your best friend or the pages of your diary when you needed to pour your heart out or share your insecurities – not to a global audience. However, since 2011, young girls have been uploading public videos of themselves online in which they talk to the camera about their appearance and ask the question: ‘Am I pretty or ugly?’ or ‘How pretty am I?’
Why are ‘Am I pretty?’ videos and posts popular?
There are various theories as to why this trend has gone viral – boredom, attention-seeking, simple curiosity. However, one common thread throughout many of these videos is that these girls have already been teased or bullied about their appearance offline – and have taken to the internet to confirm or negate it. Cammy Nelson, a media literacy speaker and activist, says: “They have learned to gain validation from the outside world and they’ve placed their self-esteem in the hands of the bigger world that is the internet. Twenty ‘Likes’ on a selfie is worth more than a compliment.”
Girls in their tweens and teens often feel anxious about their growing and changing appearance, especially if they’ve been bullied about it – and social media provides a ready-made platform to receive feedback. Unfortunately, that feedback can be negative as well as positive.
Exactly who responds to ‘Am I ugly?’ and ‘Am I pretty?’ videos?
These girls are inviting verdicts on their appearance and there are thousands of people more than willing to respond, often anonymously or under an alias. Louise Orwin, a UK performance artist keen to understand this phenomenon, uploaded ‘Am I pretty or ugly?’ videos to YouTube posing as three different teenage girls. She says: “I had assumed that most of my audience would be teenage girls; however, when I researched my commenters, I found that nearly 70% were men over the age of 18.”
What’s even more disturbing is the commentary that’s left behind. Orwin describes receiving more than 4,000 comments – 70% of which were negative. Not only are these comments critical, but many are also cruel and hateful, pointing out specific physical attributes as unsightly. Others are sexual in nature, objectifying and sometimes inviting a response. Obviously not the sort of things to which you want your daughter exposed.
Protecting your daughter from the lure of the ‘Am I pretty?’ test trend
Aside from the threat of predators, research has shown that…
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