WP266 Faces in Snapchat: Selfies and social media aesthetics

Mortenson & Brotherton


In this paper, we investigate how a face may take on a variety of forms, focusing on the ways that new media creates new venues for the molding of faces. We suggest that faces should be viewed in the plural to account for the many different facial displays a single person may make use of, and we examine how this ?pool of faces? carries sociocultural meaning. While past decades of swift technological development may seem to have diminished the role of face-to-face contact, new forms of media have, on the contrary, established multiple innovative arenas for the face to be put into action. Based on an ethnographic study of Danish teenagers? use of Snapchat, we demonstrate how the face is used as a central medium for interaction with peers. We analyze visual Snapchat messages to investigate how Snapchat encourages senders to put an ?ugly? face forward; teenage girls, for instance, often engage in manipulating their faces into hideous expressions. However, these types of facial displays are not random but follow what we describe as an ?aesthetics of ugliness?. Primarily performed by girls who have already secured their popular status in the school’s heterosexual marketplace, the aesthetics involve specific ways of looking ugly. Snapchat thus functions both as a challenge to beauty norms of ?flawless faces? and as a re-inscription of these same norms by further manifesting the exclusive status of the popular girl.