problematic

Unpacking the ‘Hot Or Not’ composite images trend on TikTok

Woman Taking a Selfie in the Mirror

User-based social media platforms like TikTok – as innocent as they may seem – have artificial intelligence filters to rate how good you look. One of these is the “hot or not composite images” trend that evaluates the attractiveness of your face on a basic scale of 1 to 10 based on averages.

Let’s unpack one of the latest TikTok trends to see how our society influences our view of what’s desirable and attractive.

Woman taking a selfie

RELATED: The pumpkin trend, “Squid Game” doll drag, & Grandy Glaze’s tighty whities

What Is The Hot Or Not Composite Images Challenge?

There’s always some viral trend going on on TikTok, the reigning, video-focused social networking service for millennials and Gen Zs. One of them is the hot or not composite images challenge that many TikTok users have contributed to.

This TikTok trend arbitrarily judges your appearance, determining if you’re “hot or not” using the Shapeshifter effect of the app. It’s the same effect you’d use to find your celebrity look-alike, Marvel doppelgänger, or ethnicity

It’s not a new filter, as TikTok users have posted videos around rating appearances before, but the challenge takes a slightly different approach. Instead of a generator that gives random results for entertainment, the composite images trend is based on a multi morph composite – an image constructed by merging photos together. 

The software basically incorporates 15 images to form an image and rates your attractiveness on a 1 to 10 scale in seconds. Most TikTok users then react to the result and post their content to the platform.

To look at all the TikTok videos, open the app and type “shapeshifting” or “glow look” in the search bar. You’ll discover many videos, including the ones that follow this particular trend we’re highlighting.

So far, there isn’t a male version of the challenge – the image used is only for female faces. But we’ll likely see a similar one for masculine looks soon, especially if the one for feminine features continues to take off.

Woman takes selfie outdoors

How Does The Composite Images Challenge Work?

It’s pretty easy to join the trend. To take part in the ongoing challenge, here is a quick run-through of the steps:

  1. Download the composite image sheet on Wikimedia Commons. Save the image on your camera roll before you open the TikTok app on your device.
  2. Once the image is saved, open TikTok on your device and log in (or sign up).
  3. Go to the effects panel and choose “shifting” or “shapeshifting”. The app will redirect you to the trending or popular videos that use the particular effect. Both filters will work for this challenge. 
  4. Choose any of the videos shown or tap the button below to use the effect.
  5. Your camera roll will appear. Tap the composite image you downloaded to insert it.
  6. The effect will work once you hit the record button. You can then edit it to your liking (by adding text, music, or special effects) before posting it on your feed.

Most TikTok users will also let the filter analyze their face multiple times just to see if the results are, for lack of a better term, somewhat “accurate.”

Given that most TikTok challenges revolve around a particular song, most TikTok users also pair their video with the “King of the Hill Theme” track by The Refreshments. The song has already been used in over 40,000 TikTok videos that follow the hot or not composite images challenge.

While some TikTok users are happy and proud of their result – often even boasting about it – others are unfortunately less than impressed and hurt if they get a low mark. But this doesn’t stop TikTok users from joining the challenge to gain more attention, increase followers, garner likes, and attempt to become viral on the app.

Woman looks at her phone while riding the bus

Where Did The Hot Or Not Composite Image Come From?

Canadian statistics programmer and photography enthusiast Pierre Tourigny created the hot or not composite image used for the TikTok trend. Tourigny posted the image on Flickr back in 2006 – more than a decade before TikTok was ever created and released to the public.

He culled a couple of images from the discontinued website “Hot or Not”, where random people rated other people’s attractiveness. Tourigny downloaded these photos, organized them according to rank, and plugged them into the Sqirlz Morph software to generate multi-morph composite images for rank groupings. 

Doing so, he painted a picture of what the society deems as least and most attractive, using the program to assign certain facial features and measurements to specific scores. 

“Morphs tend to be prettier than their sources because face asymmetries and skin blemishes average out. However, the low score images show that fat is not attractive. The high scores tend to have narrow faces,” he shared in his post on Flickr.

Even with the wide array of images, however, most of them have low resolution. “The portraits are blurry because the source images are low-resolution with differences in posture, hairstyles, glasses, etc., so that I could use only 36 control points for the morphs,” he added.

“These women do not exist,” Tourigny emphasizes. “They each are a composite of about 30 faces that I created to find out the current standard of good looks on the Internet.”

Still, it doesn’t stop his image from creating a standard of what our society deems as “hot.”

Woman whose face is marked up for plastic surgery

The Problem With The Composite Images Trend

Until the world is filled with individuals with an ironclad self-image and awareness, the hot or not composite images trend on TikTok may be detrimental to our society’s emotional health. Some people will see their results as pure fun, but others might take it to heart. And when that happens, it poses a real issue. 

Even before this challenge, many TikTok users were already experiencing a negative self-perception. Body activist Brittani Lancaster shared that staying on the app wasn’t worth it because it negatively affected her mental health.

Even Sissy Sheridan, a social media star, aired her thoughts on Twitter, saying, “I liked my body before I downloaded TikTok.”

Portrait of woman wearing a sweater

Conclusion

The composite challenge scale averages many images within a single bracket of attractiveness, going against the idea that beauty comes in many different shapes and sizes. In the modern age where many young children and adolescents struggle with self-worth and warped body image perceptions, TikTok trends like these contribute to media expectations of how a “hot” or beautiful person should look. 

No research or documentation proves the harm of this specific TikTok challenge, but it may negatively affect how women see themselves for years to come. 

RELATED: The latest TikTok trend: Holocaust, school shooting, and 9/11 victim role play