A worrying trend may be here to stay as teens continue to obsess over their looks in Korea. Sixteen-year-old Jung, who is currently in his third year of middle school, uploaded pictures of himself to the Internet Friendship Cafe in order to get an assessment of his appearance from members of the mostly teenaged community. A younger girl, Kim, did the same, uploading a picture of her face in order to get an objective evaluation of her looks, and advice on how to improve it. This "face-rating" culture of uploading pictures of one's face for objective evaluation is popular among teens. The list of posts from teens who ask for face-ratings is so long now that the cafe has created a new menu feature: Physical Appearance Woes/Face-rating. The evaluations given by the peers either evoke confidence in these teens, or give them advice on what needs improving. There are three ratings: Orcish (ugly), Average, and Heart-Warming (attractive). Teens are given advice on what they are "lacking" and what needs "work."
One sixteen-year-old, Park, uploads a picture everytime he updates his look and asks for advice on his looks. Park says that "It’s great if I receive positive feedback, but if it’s negative, that’s okay, too ’cause I can make up for those bad points, and my friends also get advice online and change their looks, too."
While this culture of face-rating is worrisome, the majority of responses to posts consists of advice like "Why not try such and such," rather than mean comments like "You’re ugly." One student said "I’m 177cm in height and in my 3rd year of middle school, but I’ve never heard nice things about my face from my friends," and got advice from the online members such as, "If you put some wax in your hair, you can create some style," and "If you lose a bit of weight and get rid of those glasses, you’d look cooler." Another middle school student said "I have no confidence with my appearance and think I’m ugly," to which someone who said they were also in their third year said "Your nose is pretty, and your eyes are big, so overall, you are not ugly at all," and "On a scale of 1 to 6, you’d fall under a 4, so please don’t worry."
However, this still raises concerns, as a part of this culture is a reflection of an adult culture of lookism. Professor Kwak Geum Joo of Seoul National University
's Psychology Department analyzed that "Since children are a mini version of adults, this shows that our society’s lookism and favor toward cosmetic surgery is even influencing our children" and "the adolescent tendency to get recognition and an evaluation of one’s appearance is interlinked with the Internet, creating a culture of so-called ‘face-rating.'’’ He advises, "Since the main concern of adolescents is their appearances, if they receive bad feedback from face-rating, they would feel hurt, and this can also have a negative effect to their personality." He also says, "It’s important for friends and family to try to compliment unconfident teenagers and help them find their other positive points."
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