“Do you think you know what you look like?”
I sent this text in a group chat a few months ago (probably during a pressing existential crisis), half expecting to be met with responses like “of course” and “duh” and maybe even a “what are you going through…” from my particularly intuitive friends. Instead, I got the opposite.
A swift “No,” was the first reply.
“I don’t think I do,” came after.
Followed by an, “Oh, not even a little.”
For a moment, I wondered if it was just my friend group, perhaps people with similar strange issues simply find each other. But then I noticed a similar sentiment reflected on social media. From acquaintances polling my same questions in their Instagram stories to TikTok filters claiming to show you “what you really look like,” it appears that no one knows.
Experts have long predicted the harm that growing up with social media might do to the digital generation’s self-esteem. Comparison culture — combined with filters and photoshop — establishes impossible standards to live up to. This only got worse during the pandemic.
With reduced social interaction outside our immediate circles, increased time spent on the internet, and two years of staring at ourselves in Zoom boxes, it’s no wonder people are freaking out about their appearance.
Not all of us look like this over Zoom
For me, it manifested in a text chain to my friends that made me feel a little less crazy. But for some, confronted with our visage versus what the internet tells us we’re supposed to look like caused friction. Hence, the post-pandemic plastic surgery boom.
Why Is Everyone Getting Plastic Surgery
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, “During the pandemic, 11% of women surveyed indicated they are more interested in cosmetic plastic surgery or non-surgical procedures now than before COVID-19. And the figure is even higher among women who have already had surgery or a procedure — 24%, respectively. Also, 35% of women who have previously had at least one cosmetic surgical procedure or minimally invasive procedure plan to spend significantly or somewhat more on treatments in 2021 than in 2020.”
This heightened interest in plastic surgery reflects the growing accessibility of cosmetic procedures. While at one time — plastic surgery seemed taboo and exclusive to those who could afford covert surgeons hiding in the Hollywood Hills — social media makes it much easier to access.
But is this accessibility a good thing?
Influencers are a massive driving force behind the plastic surgery boom — with many promoting certain procedures and transparently sharing their experiences with their audiences. Supermodel Bella Hadid just finally admitted to having had a nose job at age 14!
In a revealing article. “NBC News spoke with 12 social media personalities whose audiences range from under 100,000 to over 10 million followers. They detailed how they feel pressured to look perfect in real life and online. This has led younger creators in their teens and early 20s to get cosmetic procedures, ranging from lip filler injections to plastic surgery — many of which they received at discounted rates. Many expressed regrets about some of their procedures. Six of them described feeling addicted to body modification.”
When influencers promote cheap treatments or subpar procedures, it can be dangerous. Filler can shift about under your skin and completely wreck your face. This leads to desperate attempts to dissolve old filler and, at worst, a botched procedure or misshapen appearances.
However, some people know the risks, yet return for treatment after treatment.
For many young people, body modifications and cosmetic procedures are a way of trying to fix their insecurities. Temporary relief from their own self-scrutiny can get addictive … until the next insecurity pops up. These days, there’s a “fix” for everything. But how far is too far?
The Compulsory Cult of “Hotness”
For some, their goal is to feel confident about themselves or address and erase specific insecurities. As plastic surgery and cosmetic treatments become normalized, filler and botox are part of the mainstream beauty conversation — just like facials or spa treatments.
But for the others, it’s not about upkeep. It’s about hotness. A recent viral article in The Cut explores the growing community of people who … just want to be hot. The article was a deep dive into the subreddit r/HowToBeHot and our obsession with conventional beauty.
According to the article, this subculture isn’t merely a shallow pursuit of vanity — and even if it is, it still reflects broader societal norms. In fact, it relies on societal norms and conventions. The subreddit r/HowToBeHot is entirely based on cultural and social perception — how being perceived as more attractive can make your life easier in substantial ways. According to the community, “to the extent that pursuing hotness doesn’t make you miserable, wouldn’t living a hotter life mean living a happier one?”
The piece goes on to say: “Figuring out which combination of features and attributes is considered most beautiful by the majority of the population is a collective task. This practice is called Looks Theory — a term borrowed from incel subcultures — which refers to the study of what it takes to look good to the majority of people. The sub-Reddit seems aware that the beauty ideal varies across cultures and time periods — which makes nailing down the specifics of the perfect body all the more challenging — but the goal is to figure out what looks the hottest to the highest number of people.”
But this particular rabbit hole is one that will never end. Standards of “hotness” are always changing. Plus, as some members of the group admit, many trends come and go — like being blonde — as well as established conventions — having a smaller nose or lips — are rooted in outdated eugenics and racism.
The desire for beauty has kept the industry aflame for centuries, and the pandemic has only revived it. But not everyone wants to get lost in a neverending, compulsory pursuit of beauty. Some people just want to look better on Zoom.
How to Look Better on Camera, Without Plastic Surgery
Like fluorescent bathroom lights, unflattering dressing room lighting doesn’t do anyone any favors. With one glance in the dressing room mirror, you can be sent spiraling. Obsessing over how awful you look in that shirt you picked out — only to try on the same garments at home and feel great.
Our laptop cameras have a similar effect. No one looks especially great on Zoom or Google Meet or whatever other platform there is out there. But somehow, your manager logs on looking lit from within, like they got a full night’s rest — and like the Zoom camera was made for them.
They’re probably using a ring light.
With the right lighting, anyone can immediately transform their virtual meeting appearance — no treatment necessary.
HeySexy’s excellent ring lights, mirrors, and vanities will help you feel more confident without changing a thing about you. When cast in your best light, HeySexy proves that all you have to do to feel “hot” is change the lighting, and let your confidence shine!