When are self­ies no longer self­ies?

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - PAGE TWO -

Sud­denly, a panda ap­peared be­neath my hand, munch­ing bam­boo. I also had furry black ears and oddly large eyes. That was just the be­gin­ning. In other pho­tos and GIFs, galax­ies swirled around my face, and ghostly, glit­ter­ing whales swam around me amid a sea of sparkles.

Then, my nose sprouted a ban­dage while leaves flut­tered from the sky in front of me. Later, but­ter­flies flit­tered glit­ter on my head like they were shak­ing pixie dust off their wings.

And, fi­nally, hong­bao — red en­velopes filled with cash, given dur­ing cer­tain Chi­nese fes­ti­vals — poured down on my head. It’s the first time in my life money has rained down on me.

China’s su­per-pop­u­lar selfie apps are recre­at­ing the world — or at least how it’s

This Day, That Year

per­ceived on­line.

The coun­try’s so­cial me­dia is in the throes of the takeover of makeover apps.

“Beauty apps” al­ter re­al­ity to make it pic­ture per­fect.

Some, like Meitu — the most pop­u­lar such app — au­to­mat­i­cally ap­ply cos­met­ics. Users can try on vir­tual lip­stick from the likes of Dior and Gior­gio Ar­mani, and or­der phys­i­cal cos­met­ics in the store. But there are even so called “beauty smart­phones”. They cost around 8,000 yuan ($1,200), and their sole func­tion is as a cam­era that au­to­mat­i­cally aug­ments your ap­pear­ance.

There are over 3,400 such apps in the Chi­nese mar­ket, and half of Chi­nese with smart­phones use them, data com­pany Jiguang re­ports. Most use at least two.

Th­ese of­fer filters to au­to­mat­i­cally make your eyes larger, face slim­mer and the bridge of the nose higher, in ac­cor­dance with main­stream Chi­nese beauty pref­er­ences. There are also man­ual-edit­ing op­tions.

I downloaded Meitu and con­fess I took its beauty func­tions to the ex­treme to see how far they’d go. I en­larged my eyes and slimmed my chin un­til I looked like an alien.

Now, the beauty apps are meant to be con­vinc­ing.

It’s agreed upon that ob­vi­ous over edit­ing is un­de­sir­able.

Some in­ter­net stars re­port­edly refuse to make pub­lic ap­pear­ances be­cause peo­ple may see what they look like in real life.

This says some­thing about how our on­line lives are in­creas­ingly di­vorced from our re­la­tion­ship with phys­i­cal re­al­ity.

But th­ese apps’ aug­mented re­al­ity op­tions, which are grow­ing in pop­u­lar­ity, show a new side of the phe­nom­e­non of cu­rated so­cial-me­dia pres­ence that’s to­tally and pur­pose­fully un­hinged from re­al­ity — just for fun.

No­body views th­ese pho­tos and be­lieves a shim­mer­ing Pe­ga­sus is trot­ting across the air over their hair, or a shark has swal­lowed their head, or that their face has turned into a text­book’s cover. They’re for gig­gles. The beauty func­tions, in­stead, per­haps point to an ugly in­se­cu­rity that pro­pels peo­ple to present what’s es­sen­tially a mask of their own face.

Maybe mak­ing them­selves look “bet­ter” ac­tu­ally makes them feel worse.

How much of them­selves is in their self­ies?

Or per­haps it’s merely a fash­ion in­no­va­tion of the 21st cen­tury — the dig­i­ti­za­tion of makeup and cos­metic surgery, which are an­cient prac­tices.

It’s hard to say if beauty apps cre­ate a pretty pic­ture of peo­ple in the dig­i­tal era or not. That said, it’s al­ways fun to pet pan­das — even if only vir­tu­ally.

Con­tact the writer at erik_nils­son@ chi­nadaily.com.cn

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MATTHIAS SCHRADER / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A man jumps into Lake Chiem­see in Bavaria, Ger­many, on Satur­day.

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