Imagine this: You indulge in a piece of chocolate cake—but afterward you’re wracked with guilt. So you quickly send out a Tweet saying you feel “gross” about it. This scenario might seem familiar—and also like no big deal. But women carelessly bash themselves—and others—online more often than you might think. Eight in 10 women report encountering this kind of negativity on social media, and March is actually the worst month for damaging appearance-related comments on Twitter, according to new data from Dove. And the harshest critics are, in fact, ourselves: four out of five negative beauty-related Tweets come from women talking about themselves.
We live in a media ecosystem filled with unrealistic beauty standards, Danah Boyd, Microsoft Social Media Scholar, said in a panel on the topic in Austin, Tex., on Saturday. “The internet mirrors and magnifies the good, the bad, and the ugly of everyday life,” she said.
So what’s the solution? Timed to South by Southwest’s 2016 Interactive Conference, Dove and Twitter launched a new technology on Saturday, called the #SpeakBeautiful Effect, aimed at getting to the root of the issue. Here’s how it works: You retweet this tweet from Dove. Then their new system will sift through six months of your personal Tweets, looking for body and beauty-related phrases and emotions, and analyze them. In minutes, you’ll receive a custom report with graphs about your Tweets, including the types of words you use, how frequently you use them, and when. Dove says they hope not to police the way women Tweet, but to raise awareness of the way they talk about themselves and others in order to ultimately change the behavior.
There’s a difference between what we think we say and what we really say, Boyd said at the panel. And this tool could be one step in closing the gap between the two.