rogue

'There's a dark corner of the Internet. And I don't know why anyone goes there.'

The internet is full of dark, morbid places, where only the sickest of human beings go.

There are cannibalistic forums. There are sites dedicated to sharing the final statements of people who have been executed in Texas. There’s one page that claims to teach you how to summon demons (no…thank you). There are parts of the web so creepy and chilling that I couldn’t even imagine them in my worst nightmares.

But there’s one place I’ve found that’s dark in a very different way. It’s not about death or torture or evil magic. It’s morbid and depressing in a 13-year-old-girl-trying-to-ruin-her-self-esteem-for-life kind of way.

And as anyone who has ever been an adolescent girl would know, that s**t is real dark.

The place I’m talking about is called ‘Rate Me‘. Ominous, I know.

It’s a forum on Reddit dedicated to users submitting photos of themselves, and asking other anonymous users to rate them.

Here’s how it works.

Depressing AF. Image via Reddit.

People post one (or several) photos of themselves, their age, and a little caption like 'rate me please and thank you'.

Anonymous people then comment with either: a) a rating out of 10, b) some feedback (e.g. 'your clothes look pretty trashy'), or c) some advice (e.g. 'lose some weight and you'd go from a 4 to an 8').

Let's take 19-year-old by Dwarvemagik as an example, who shared these three photos of herself using Imgur.

I chose her simply because she was the most recent person to post in the forum. Her photo, captioned with the words 'Be honest :~)', attracted 55 comments.

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The most popular read, 'U look like you're 30 clean yourself up girl.'

The second most popular comment, posted by Reddit user preaCor, said: 'Not my type, but not ugly either - style, hair, skin simply look like you didn't put much effort into it - no curves either to tip the score, so 4,5/10.'

Looking further into the comments, one person has written, 'You've got a lot of nose, mouth, teeth, and eyes, and not a lot of face to support it all.'

Not a lot of face. She doesn't have a lot of face, apparently.

Of course, there are some positive comments. Probably because the person in question happens to be very pretty. But how many 'super cute's' and 'I like your style's!' does it take to cancel out one comment about not having enough 'face'?

To me, Reddit Rate Me is one of the darkest corners of the internet. And I don't know why anyone would willingly put themselves there. It's a sure fire way to completely destroy your self esteem and develop insecurities you didn't even know you were supposed to have.

I remember in high school we used to play a game at sleepovers called 'good thing, bad thing.' The point of the game was for your 'friends' to be brutally honest about something they liked and disliked about you. It wasn't... fun. It was awful. And the truths I was told at those sleepovers have stuck with me for over a decade.

There we were, 13-year-old girls sitting in a circle, thinking it was 'fun' to tell someone that they're annoying, or don't wash their hair enough, or that no one likes them and maybe they need to change everything about themselves so as not to be so unlikable. The fundamental difference between our teenage games and Reddit Rate Me is that on Reddit, people's feedback is solely focused on appearance. In some ways, for young women, that might be even worse.

Given the enormous value placed on our looks, I can't imagine the emotional toll of being told that you're simply not attractive, by people who have never met you and have only ever seen your photo. And the people posting on this forum clearly place significant value on their appearance - or they probably wouldn't have ASKED THE WHOLE INTERNET ABOUT IT.

Image via Imgur.
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It makes me viscerally sad when I see young women (the majority of those who post to Rate Me appear to be women, although there are more men than you'd expect) explicitly seek validation about their attractiveness from strangers on the internet. They say they're posting in order to 'improve', but I want to know - improve what?

Improve the way other people judge the way they look? Improve the way a random person walking down the street would rate them on a scale from 1 to 10? Improve something you can't actually improve without drastic surgery - like the size of your nose, or the amount of 'face' you have?

It seems like our image-obsessed culture has trickled down to a forum in the depths of the internet where self-objectification is the norm. Where everyone wants to be a Kim Kardashian or a Taylor Swift or a Beyonce, and they truly believe they just need a little help from the Reddit community to get there.

Watch Mamamia's #Realspo confessions: The moment our bodies betrayed us. Post continues after video...

In this dark, dark place, your appearance belongs to other people. It's not your own. You sacrifice it to the masses, and it becomes theirs to criticise, to offer 'advice' on, to judge.

Why would you do that? Never, in a million years, would this practice make anyone feel better about themselves. Any normal looking person anyway. We've all got imperfections and quirks that can't possibly translate through the lens of a camera. None of us are a 10. NONE OF US. And so what?

Looking like a human being is not a crime, or anything to be ashamed of.

But I worry that Reddit Rate Me is an unfiltered version of how we've been socialised to think about other people's appearances. That there are always ways for them to improve. That if they tweaked this or that, they could be far better looking. That their body and face isn't their own - but ours to judge.

And that's what makes it so terrifying.