By Ana Perez, 10th Grade
Dream is a massively popular Minecraft YouTuber with over 30 million subscribers. He’s a co-founding member of a collective of other Minecraft content creators called DreamSMP. Just recently, he showed his face to his followers after using an alter ego that consisted of a white mask with a black smiley face drawn on it. In his video, he introduced himself as Clay and admitted he did not want to live under an alter ego any longer since he found it exhausting to deal with. And the reaction was overwhelmingly negative, especially on Twitter.
Soon after the video was released, ‘he’s ugly’ and ‘put the mask back on’ started trending on Twitter. Many started comparing Dream to Human Shrek from Shrek 2, Rumpelstiltskin from Shrek 4, and Shane Dawson. Many Twitter users shared their thoughts on Dreams’ physical appearance, adding that he looks like ‘some guy,’ that he’s a ‘basic white boy,’ and that those who think he’s attractive are ‘delusional,’ among other comments. However, many considered these comments to be disrespectful. One person said, ‘if I revealed my face, and he’s ugly started trending, you would never hear from me again.’ Another user commented, ‘this would be the start of my villain arc.’ Many felt the response to the face reveal was overly disrespectful since there was ‘no need’ to make fun of Dream for his appearance. One Twitter user commented, ‘even if he has done a lot of bad things, shouldn’t we make fun of him for that and not his appearance?’
The negative response can have real hard-hitting consequences. Appearance-related cyberbullying is no joke, and it is especially harmful at this scale. There have been many cases of appearance-related cyberbullying that have resulted in suicide. Such is of a 17-year-old teenager in India, who committed suicide after a warped picture of her face started circulating through Facebook, and she started to be harassed over it. There is also the case of Katy Robinson, who was said to be the origin of the ‘Jeff the Killer’ viral image after a picture of her face was edited, and she started to be harassed over it, which led to her committing suicide.
Appearance-related cyberbullying, and cyberbullying in general, is clearly a subject that shouldn’t be taken lightly, and yet, what is happening to Dream right now fits the definition of cyberbullying. The StopBullying organization defines cyberbullying as “bullying that takes place over digital devices like cell phones, computers, and tablets and includes sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else.” Making fun of Dream’s appearance counts as sharing and posting mean and negative content, and we can only imagine what he is feeling with most of the internet ridiculing his appearance.
And while appearance-related cyberbullying is the ‘big issue’ with this situation, beauty filters are also part of the problem. In this new content era filled with social media filters and edited appearances, our perception of looks has shifted. A study commissioned by Case24 revealed that 81% of people refuse to post a picture without touching it up first, and 71% of the people who took the survey use FaceTune in order to edit their pictures. As we consume more and more content made by creators with ‘supermodel looks,’ we start to believe that every content creator – or just anyone in general – looks like a supermodel. And, no, not everyone looks like a supermodel; most people have an average appearance. A certain user added to the discussion, ‘considering that dream looks average, there are many people that look like him; some of you are going to call dream ugly, but you probably either look like that or your friends do.’
The phenomenon of a ‘warped beauty perspective’ is more widespread than what we’d initially assume. Many TV shows affect our perception of what people actually look like. Netflix teen series are often criticized for using actors in their 20s and 30s to act as teenagers – and while this is usually done due to labor laws, these series never seem to find actors who look like teenagers, even though there are many ‘baby face’ actors in the industry. For example, in the popular teen show Euphoria, Zendaya who is 26, plays Rue Bennet, who is meant to be 16. However, most teenagers do not look like Zendaya, Jacob Elordi, or Sydney Sweeney.
This means that now, you either have the face of a supermodel or the face of the Hunchback of Notre Dame, or at least that’s what many Twitter users believe. Beauty filters make us believe that anything less from ‘perception,’ or what our current beauty standards consider this to be, is equal to ugliness. This is not true. You are not ugly because you don’t look like an actor or an Instagram model. In the case of Dream, many users felt the backlash became disproportionately negative because many influencers would ‘hype up his appearance’ just for him to turn out to be ‘just some dude.’ But despite what Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube will lead you to believe, looking like ‘just some dude’ does not mean that you are ugly.
The rampant use of beauty filters in social media has made many insecure about their appearance. A report by the Wall Street Journal reveals that 32% of teen girls said that when they felt bad about their bodies, Instagram made them feel worse. And among teens who reported suicidal thoughts, 13% of British users and 6% of American users traced the issue to Instagram. Doctor Leela Magavi reveals that “Children and adults of all ages have confided in me and shared that they are ashamed of posting photographs of themselves without the use of filters. I have assessed some teenagers, men, and women who have discussed the idea of getting plastic surgery to look more like the filtered version of themselves.” InStyle Magazine has said that “studies show that social media significantly influences plastic surgery trends, and people are bringing in photos of their filtered selves as their inspiration pictures.”
Beauty filters and unreliable representations of what teenagers and young adults actually look like have massively affected our perception of beauty within ourselves and in others. The use of filters leads us to believe that everybody is a supermodel while you’re the ‘ugly duckling,’ even though this is simply not true. Do not let social media let you believe that you’re the ‘odd one out’ or an ‘ugly duckling,’ because the truth is that most simply do not look like supermodels.
The situation with Dream teaches us that we should not let the media warp our perception of attractiveness and make us feel insecure. And it also teaches us that we should not make fun of someone for their appearance in such an overwhelmingly negative manner, since this has real hard-hitting consequences.
- Diaz, A. (2022, October 4). Why Dream revealed his face, explained. Polygon. Retrieved October 5, 2022, from https://www.polygon.com/23386130/dream-face-reveal-explained-minecraft-youtube
- Aspinall, G. (2020, August 13). 71% Of People Photoshop Their Online Pictures – Here’s Why That’s Wrong. Grazia. Retrieved October 5, 2022, from https://graziadaily.co.uk/life/in-the-news/photoshop-instagram-facetune/
- The Mental Health Impacts of Beauty Filters on Social Media Shouldn’t Be Ignored — Here’s Why. (2022, September 14). InStyle. Retrieved October 5, 2022, from https://www.instyle.com/beauty/social-media-filters-mental-health
- Girl kills self over Facebook harassment. (2014, June 25). The Times of India. Retrieved October 5, 2022, from https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata/girl-kills-self-over-facebook-harassment/articleshow/37211521.cms
- Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs (ASPA). (2021, November 5). What Is Cyberbullying? StopBullying.gov. Retrieved October 5, 2022, from https://www.stopbullying.gov/cyberbullying/what-is-it