Disappearing Act

By Gregg Casazza

Each week my phone gets an updated report from my friends over at Apple detailing my overall screentime. This is either a gesture of good faith intended to limit my cellular usage or a reminder of how much data big companies like Apple have on all of us. Either way, mine was up 35% this week, and 27% the week before. I await the day when the alert tells me, “Congrats, you did it, you spent 100% of the day on your phone.”

I’d like to attribute some of this influx to the app TikTok, a spiritual successor to Vine, and like it a short-form video sharing platform that is both captivating and addictive by design. Like many, I spurned the idea of this app initially, disavowing what I had deemed “low-art” or being too “teen,” for me— a distinguished adult man who still lives at home. But over time, I found myself drawn into the alluring app and its dance crazes. And as I spent more time on this app, (35% more time than last week to be precise), the algorithm curated my “For You Page,” which quickly became a place of unattainable beauty standards. Soon I was no longer watching the 15-second joke videos or #RelatableTeenContent, which I had been promised, and instead, I was presented an endless collection of male models with perfect hair, skin, and bodies.

During a quarantine, where so much time is spent in digital spaces, I find myself constantly comparing and scrutinizing my own hair, skin, and body. For anyone dealing with body dysmorphia, or dysmorphic thoughts, being locked in your room with this near-constant barrage of videos and pictures can have a profound effect on one’s psyche, especially when the places that are meant to be a “safe space” are intentionally skewed to favor traditional beauty standard (so much so that there are various articles and trending hashtags detailing this TikTok phenomenon.)

So where does this leave me? I could stop using the app, I could lower my screentime, I could do any number of things, but at the end of the day, those thoughts would still be there. And as much as I can work on myself, to try and foster self-love, and positive self-talk, there will always be mirrors, and camera-phones and new social media platforms to remind of all the different pieces of myself that I’d like to cut off or make disappear.