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When modern suburban culture is picked apart are there really any faces behind the masks we wear?

You tear at it in desperation, this mask of horror, again and again. It refuses to recognize itself, your face in the mirror.

Pale skin, but what is pale? Is it unhealthy, or sick? Slightly pink under your eyes. Irony. The aggressive void of a vapid consumerism that spreads like a virus as you age. Become self-sware. Good, now you are self-conscious. Now you are weak. Susceptible to believing you can function in this paradoxical vacuum. You can lose weight and live on ‘gourmet food’. Block up your pores with make-up, have good skin, the constant battle. Beauty, an edged sword, so learn to wield it. Be young as you age. You can be cool. Cool is a distant, but you want to be connected. You want to be touched. You want that connection, to find catharsis for the silent mask that can never be removed.

You care about how many followers you have on Instagram. It’s what gets you out of bed in the morning. This is the plight of a generation and you do not know how to overcome the helplessness, you try. You have photos to remind yourself of what you might be capable of becoming. You dress in grid pattern clothing. It gives off an arty vibe but is also the mass-market product of a pan-global clothing giant dressing the artist up in you. You’re just like all the other artists. You fit in.

A buzz. Your phone. Someone liked your photo. You feel relief washing all over you, validation, you feel creative again. Someone has recognized you in the mirror. They know how you suffer. They know your confidence is an illusion, your self-doubt crippling and constant. But they like your photo. It’s captioned ‘living the life’.

You turn over in bed and pull the blankets over your eyes. Under the sheets the light is diffused. Your phone softly glows. It is 2.51PM. How can anyone be so earnest and feel totally ridiculous? How can you move past the knowledge of your own constant hypocrisy, or the cynical self-awareness that tells you how bland and phony you are? Is anyone more genuine than you? To progress is to risk failure. To fail is to be imperfect. Why risk imperfection when you are comfortable? Isn’t this the happiest you’ll ever be? How can you stop looking at yourself when other people are reflective? Every surface wants to show you something about yourself, doesn’t it? The loneliness inside of you is constant and chronic. No one knows how sick you are, there are no visible symptoms. You turn on your I-Pod. None of the songs feel right. Your earphones halt the constant hiss of traffic, the blood flowing inside of your head. The ebb and flow of the little world inside of you. Your eyes are heavy. Your chest is weighted. You lift your phone to your eyes and feel like a radicant plant shooting its roots out across the concrete in search of soil. You post one of yesterday’s selfies and caption it with meaningless emojis and a smiley face. Your mouth is a straight line. You are a happy, successful and creative person. All of the evidence is in front of you on a screen. 12 minutes pass, you have 430 likes and seventeen comments. People wish they had your hair. One asks you where your clothes came from. Your beauty is a weapon. Beauty is a terror. People are jealous of you.

— Linus Rowe is an artist. He studies Fine Art at Central Saint Martins, London

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