What’s FaceApp Really Getting At?

leandra medine face app man repeller

I should have known FaceApp would blow up this week when our social media editor, Amalie, dropped a photo of herself looking a purported 50 years her senior into a slack channel within Man Repeller’s workspace on Monday morning. It was as if every one of us had risen from the dead (a summer weekend) to run our own selfies through the facial augmentation app. I was pretty horrified at my attempt at future self-actualizaion and further horrified by my horrification because when I ran Abie’s face through the app, he looked adorable. Just great. It was like watching a divine and sincere young man become a divine and sincere grandpa. Where my wrinkles seemed to tell of a weathered woman’s wrestle with life, his looked like a yarn ball presenting deeper indentations of wisdom with each unraveling layer of string. What made him so cute and me so grotesque? What does this to men vs. women in the context of aging more generally?

It’s almost too easy to argue that the messaging points doled out by popular culture and public discourse have enforced an inherent fear among women to, after a certain age, look their age, whereas no such model really exists on the male front (though they do deal with this kind of shit too, just in other areas like muscular strength or self-imposed pressure to succeed financially; I am less versed in the language of their fight).

But in my view, little is achieved by pointing fingers or placing the onus on the sum of society, particularly without adopting some of the blame yourself, so I’m not gonna go there. I didn’t plan to. Why I was horrified, really, is because here I’ve been on this high horse for weeks shouting from the rooftops in the way of mirror selfies about all this new confidence and compassion (sorry, I mean cOmPaShUn) that I have earned for myself and then, boom — an effective rebranding of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray in the privacy of my mobile browser.

I loved his picture because I love him. Duh. Unconditionally and irreversibly. I hated my picture because I’m hard as fuck on myself. I assumed that I was looking at current me, but in the future, and looking at that meant that I stayed current me — that I just let time pass with my ears and eyes and heart shut. But if I hated a future me that stayed current me, did that mean I hate current me? That I don’t love *~me~* unconditionally and irreversibly? Do I even have another option? And what about the newfangled confidence! The cOmPaShUn! It didn’t sound completely right, so I lifted the lid on this supposition and asked: Would it really be that bad if I did, in fact, stay current me?

The answer wasn’t like Hell yes, you’re a devil woman. Phewph. It was more like, Overall, it would be unfortunate because it means you’re not responding to the way the world around you is changing and therefore the critical way in which your capacity to absorb and handle that could improve in accordance, which indicated this difference between resentment of the self, a strain of malignant vanity that closes the door on the potentiality of building a good rapport with yourself and some healthy, critical questioning — a recipe to foster abundant thinking — that’s mostly possible after you’ve arrived at self-acceptance.

Sometimes I wonder if the reason so many of us are afraid to age is because we think that if we pay to look younger, what we’re actually buying is more time. More time for what? I don’t know. To make up for the ways in which we could be better? To freeze the state of “current me”  so as to continue avoiding the often gruesome process of confronting ourselves and asking the hardest but single most important question of self-development — Do I like myself? And further — If I don’t, what’s it gonna take to make me like myself?

Holy shit, I just realized something. I have been thinking that I am pretty sure I want to start botox injections in my forehead. Is that because the wrinkles remind me that I’m irresponsible when I sit in the sun and that I don’t pragmatically evaluate the order of consequences when I am asked if I would like another drink?



I will probably still do it. Get the botox and make irresponsible skincare and unpragmatic beverage consumption decisions. Both tendencies are representative of much greater, self-identified shortcomings that don’t have to be so damn deep-seated. I’m not that irresponsible, and I’m pretty pragmatic overall, so I’d rather not nurture this realization too much, and give myself some leeway to yolo. I don’t remember how we got here, but now that we’ve reached the end, I want you to know that I ran Justin Bieber through FaceApp, too. He makes for a beautiful senior. I wonder what he will have learned.

Photos provided by Leandra Medine. 

Leandra M. Cohen

Leandra M. Cohen is the founder of Man Repeller.

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