We don’t handle ageing well in the UK. Getting older here denotes one step closer to death; it is a thing to be feared. As such we treat the elderly in Britain with a bizarre mix of mystical reverence (see: the reason your grandad can get away with calling cousin Tom’s Jamaican girlfriend ‘coloured’) and guilty disdain. We, the young and sprightly, simply cannot believe that anyone would allow themselves to succumb to the inexorable march of time, let their supple flesh wither and sag, lose their grip on their wits. But we also know it’s absolutely going to happen to us, sooner rather than later. This is why we put old people in homes; out of sight, out of mind.
So the explosion of FaceApp, a novelty ‘ageing’ app, comes as a bit of a surprise. Sure, we’ve dabbled in fad facially-altering apps before; remember the gender swap craze of, oh, four months ago? Yet the sudden deluge of prematurely aged selfies that have hit every social feed going, are a little more startling. This is perhaps because the tech has improved since FaceApp first muscled its way into the collective consciousness in 2017; now the AI powering produces terrifyingly accurate-seeming results. Look! It really is you, old! Lol.
I personally am bored by this app, bored by all these placid dopes who are entertained by the notion of a few wrinkles lining their gormless little faces. But that’s because I do not fear ageing – ageing will simply render me more powerful.
However, I can understand that for the rest of you, playing around with FaceApp is both repulsive and deeply enticing, like clicking onto the step-parent/step-child categories on Pornhub. It’s close enough to a proper social taboo (death, which we’re terrible at) to feel transgressive. Yet at the same time, it’s impossible to look away (or – just to squeeze every last drop of juice out of this metaphor – switch off that Hitachi wand).
And perhaps there is another element at play; the pervasive, general feeling that we really are living in end times, that this is finally it. With climate change and the collapse of democracy on our doorstep; with the President of the biggest Western power in the world saying ‘Fuck it, mask off’ and trying to get every minority murdered, it seems the last teetering pillars of civility have finally collapsed. We’re not going to grow old, are we? It’s all going to be over quite soon, probably within the next 20 years. May as well upload a quick selfie to that weird Russian app that wants the rights to sell your likeness, before you go storming Area 51. There, that’s you at 60, an age you’re unlikely to see! The world is fucked! Lol.