As a society, we seem pretty engrossed in playing with our facial features. The likes of Snapchat, CamCam and Face Swap have made it possible to swap our features with a friends, add cat or noses over our own, become ghost-like and even become the image of a fairy-tale elfin creature.
In 2016, when Facebook bought one of the most popular apps in the Apple App Store, Masquerade, they were able to offer their users the ability to overlay playful, animated filters over their face using their phones selfie camera. Effects range from Leonardo DiCaprio at the Oscars to a Bob Marley styled gent, complete with colourful hat and round glasses.
This was far from anything new however, with several similar apps available since 2013, including Face Stealer launched by Yahoo Japan. SnapChat, arguably the most famous in facial augmentation applications, was initially launched in 2011 with the “Lens” feature introduced in September 2015, allowing users to add real-time effects into their snaps by using face detection technology which is activated by long-pressing on a face within the viewfinder.
Being someone else
The question is, are we obsessed with being someone else or are we simply having fun? As a society, are we so engrained into the mindset that we should not be confident and accepting of our own features that we feel the need to either replace them with another’s or cover them with a comical filter? Or is it just a giggle to see how a wet nose, floppy ears and ginormous tongue would look with our own skin and hair?
In the film ‘Face/Off’, starring John Travolta and Nicholas Cage, Caster Troy (Cage) has his face removed from his body when comatose in hospital and attached to FBI agent Sean Archer (Travolta), allowing Archer to enter prison disguised in order to gain information about a biological bomb. This is an actor’s dream, and Travolta and Cage make the most of it. They spend most of the movie acting as if they’re in each other’s bodies – Travolta acting like Cage, and vice versa.
I would doubt that any one of us could say, hand on heart, that they have never once wished they could be someone else for the day – or perhaps, make truthfully, just not be themselves.
Painting a picture
The truth is, as much as we say that none of us should judge a book by its cover, that is exactly what we do. It’s almost impossible not to, when the first impression we have of most of those around us. Barring meeting a new fellow being via email or phone call, before we have the chance to open our mouths those around us have been able to see us. In those milliseconds, they will have noticed what we’re wearing, how we hold ourselves, and what we look like.
Whilst this is no bad thing, for many it can be overwhelming… going through the process or being pre-judged over and over again. It is no wonder that, every once in a while, some want to retreat behind a façade whilst still having contact with the outside world. There is an unspoken safety net in being able to converse with those around you while your face does not resemble your own – if nothing else, you have started the joke of what you look like in that moment, so laughter can now only be with you rather that at you.
For others, the flower halos and demonic horns are a tool in which to tailor themselves to different audiences. They are a device in which to make people laugh, in which to relate to different personalities or in jokes, or in which to soften a conversation. They allow the user to personalise themselves in any which way to their spectators.
It isn’t just individuals that feel the need to augment their image to suit a situation. Many companies choose to have various subsidiaries in order to target different markets, or to change their branding over the years to maintain a modern and fresh feel.
This process is one often also seen when organisations are looking to thank or reward an audience – both internal (staff) or external (customers or clients). They realise that for the message to be received with full sincerity, it needs to be personal to the recipient. But the issue of cost often puts a stop to the well-meant efforts – taking the time to choose multiple gifts, purchasing just one or two of each item, posting or packaging all rewards separately, it all quickly adds up.
In recent years, pre-paid cards have come to the rescue. With dynamic printing, which means that cards and the letters they are attached too being created on an as-needed basis and often with different content for each letter, companies are now able to personalise thank you gifts and recognition rewards to suit their audience. They are now able to connect with their recipients on a one-to-one basis, no longer hiding behind a corporate filter, but instead tailoring the experience to add genuine understanding and appreciation.