I am fascinated by the Botox revolution because it irrevocably removes important communication clues to the status of the emotional well being of the injected. On January 8, 2007, I wrote — “Wearing Your Deathmask in Life” — and the poison that is Botox certainly makes the injected the owner of a corpse face:
We all wear masks. Once you’ve lived long enough, you begin to recognize and read people via the mask of their face before any words are spoken. There are few original masks in the world and once you’ve reacted and interacted with one face you quickly begin to learn all masks of that sort behave and express in the same way. What happens when the faces of the dead are resurrected into masks of the living?
When I recently read about David Neal’s research on Botox at USC, I found a whole new morbid appreciation for the destruction that poison has on the soul of us:
“People who use Botox are less able to read others’ emotions,” said USC psychology professor David Neal.
The disconnect happens because people read others’ emotions partly by mimicking their facial expressions, Neal said.
“When you mimic you get a window into their inner world,” Neal said. “When we can’t mimic, as with Botox, that window is a little darker.” …
Botox paralyzes muscles to remove wrinkles, but those so-called signs of aging also hold clues into a person’s frame of mind – crow’s feet (disgust or a genuine smile), lines on the forehead (fear) or the valleys in between the eyebrows (worry). …
“It’s somewhat ironic – people use Botox to function better in social situations,” Neal said. “You may look better but you could suffer because you can’t read other people’s emotions as well.”
What a wonderment! Boxtox folk use the poison to remove all traces of wisdom, and in that Devil’s bargain, they lose the ability to read others. If you can’t create empathy in your facial musculature, you won’t get any in return; and if you are unable to express compassion to others, you will be unable to acknowledge compassion when it is gifted to you.
We worry about machines and technology taking over our lives, and yet we are slowly becoming the technology we created. We are beautiful only because we are able to recognize a wide array of beauty in others. When we risk what makes us human — the full expression and perception of our emotional state — we tempt becoming the automatic and the technocratic and we lose our vital, warm, advantage against the inanimate as we remove the recognizable hallmarks of our humanity.