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“Am I Ugly?” is a YouTube trend in which adolescents upload videos of themselves asking for commenters to rate their physical attractiveness. In February of 2012, the phenomenon rose in visibility after news media began criticizing the trend as an unhealthy means of seeking approval.
On September 28th, 2007, YouTuber spurtledoo uploaded a three-second video titled “Am I Ugly?”, which included a still image of a woman wearing glasses and the description “I’m 5’03’’ and weigh 265.” The video received more than 420,000 views and 10,600 comments in less than five years.
On December 16th, 2007, YouTuber LetsDontCare published an “Am I Ugly” video (shown left below), which received many negative comments insulting her appearance and claiming she was looking for compliments. The video did not begin receiving significant views until a year later. On January 25th, 2010, the /r/AmIUgly subreddit launched, where users could submit photos of themselves for community review in a similar manner. On May 2nd, YouTuber sidsizzle123 uploaded an “Am I Ugly” video with the description “please tell the truth” (shown right below).
On September 26th, YouTuber Dolphingirl405 uploaded a video (shown left below) asking for users to rate her hair cut, which received several comments calling her “androgynous.” On December 17th, YouTuber sgal901 posted a video titled “Am I Pretty or Ugly?” (shown right below), which featured a young girl providing commentary while showing several photographs of herself. The video received more than 5.4 million views within 16 months.
On October 6th, 2011, YouTuber wickedlemons uploaded an “Am I Ugly” video (shown left below), in which she claimed to doubt her physical appeal because she did not have a boyfriend. On December 2nd, 2011, YouTuber BeautifulAndProud posted a video titled “Am I Ugly?” (shown right below), saying that people frequently insulted her appearance.
On YouTube, a search query for the phrase “Am I Ugly” yields more than 925 video results (as of April 2012).
News Media Coverage
On April 17th, 2012, the Los Angeles Times published an article titled “‘Am I ugly?’ No! (And really, is Youtube the place to ask that?)”, which criticized the trend and called for parents to closely monitor what their children were doing online. The following day, the woman’s interest blog Jezebel posted an article titled “Tragic Trend: Teens Ask YouTube Commenters If They’re Ugly”, calling for YouTube take action against the trend. On February 21st, The Huffington Post published an article about the phenomenon, which compared the videos to the anorexia-related “thinspiration” blogs on the microblogging site Tumblr. In the following days, the story was covered on various news sites including Forbes, Yahoo and ABC. On February 24th, MSNBC ran a segment on the videos, which included interviews with YouTubers who had uploaded the videos.
The “Am I Ugly?” phenomenon also generated many commentaries and response videos from other YouTubers, many of whom criticized the practice as an unhealthy side effect of having a poor body image.
Similar trends have been observed on other media-sharing platforms like Tumblr and Instagram, where thousands of mostly younger, female users share their selfies (self-taken photographs) with hashtags like #beautycontest and #rateme for others to judge.
On April 5th, 2013, The Washington Post reported on the emerging phenomenon in an article titled “Instagram beauty contests worry parents, child privacy advocates,” noting that the trend has sparked some concern among parents and child privacy advocates. As of April 2013, an Instagram keyword search for #beautycontest yields more than 9,000 posts and #rateme turns up over 28,180 posts, not including dozens of other hashtags derived from those two keywords.
Search query volume for “am I ugly” rose significantly in February of 2012, the same month that news media outlets began covering the trend.
The Huffington Post – Am I Ugly Video Young Teens Ask YouTube Users Whether They’re Pretty Or Not
The Washington Post – Instagram beauty contests worry parents, child privacy advocates