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I hate FaceApp

File this one under “walk your talk.”

In the seminar I’ve been teaching at University of Washington this winter, we’ve been taking about, reading and creating “empowering narratives.” These are stories that show people working on solutions, stories that present the idea that tough problems can be and are being worked on, that what people do (or don’t do) makes a difference. These narratives appeal not to fear—Oh my god, the opioid crisis! Oh my god so many guns!—but to hope, to the power of action and involvement.

We are also talking about the parallel to this in the advertising world, “Empowerment Marketing.” This is a message strategy that appeals (that is, tries to sell stuff) to people by tapping to their higher instincts: the desire to connect, to be of use, to contribute to the society, to be part of a solution. The way marketing usually works is to appeal to our baser instincts: greed, vanity, self-interest, fear, insecurity. The idea of this pervasive “dark marketing” is to tell us that we are substandard, that we are missing out, that we are lacking…and then to present a product or service that will make us better, shinier, sexier, etc.

So I know all this. I’ve read books about this. I’ve studied the research. I lecture about this. I talk the talk.

Enter FaceApp.

I upload a photo of myself, and FaceApp shows me a gorgeous version of myself that I never before imagined. All of a sudden, I see my real self as…lacking. Okay, kinda ugly. I look at my FaceApp self: that nose! I love that nose! I now am insecure/ vain about my actual nose. I could buy that FaceApp nose! I could spend $6000 and get that nose! And those smoky eyes! Why aren’t my real eyes like that? My real eyes are…lacking. But I can buy cosmetics! I can buy a “make-over” at a salon! I can have those eyes. And don’t get me started about lip plumping.


I have been effectively Dark Marketed. Disempower Marketed. I’ve been ensnared by appeals to my insecurity and vanity. And I know exactly what’s happening. And I fall for it anyway.

But I don’t fall so far that I’ve scheduled a rhinoplasty.

However, this morning, for the first time in, like, a year, I applied mascara.


1 Mick Westrick { 02.28.18 at 7:31 pm }

I know you don’t need me—or anyone—to tell you this, and that my white, male cis-gendered opinion should probably be kept to myself. Nevertheless, your nose is perfect. You are perfect. Just as you are. Thank you for being my friend.

2 Lauren { 03.01.18 at 7:21 pm }

This is so generous of you, Mick. Thank you. My nose thanks you.

3 Jamala { 03.01.18 at 7:14 pm }

Thanks to this post, I will never try that app! Totally the last thing I need when trying to build self-esteem and accepting one’s self as they are.

4 Lauren { 03.01.18 at 7:20 pm }

I have achieved my goal of preventing yet another person from being Dark Marketed! Yay!

5 Sonja Bert { 03.02.18 at 7:00 pm }

If it’s any help, think you have beautiful eyes! I love how you made the connection to dark marketing and posted about it. Thank you!

6 Lauren { 03.03.18 at 10:18 pm }

Did you notice that I was wearing mascara in class Tuesday night? Maybe that’s why!

7 Dean Rea { 03.04.18 at 1:08 am }

At my age, I’m lucky to have a face.

8 Lauren { 03.04.18 at 8:56 pm }

Not to mention energy, wit and, dare I sat it, charm?

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