“The Cure for New York Face”

As reported in New York Magazine, college students exhibited “New York face”, a “grim mask of discontent” that signaled their stress, anxiety and depression. The writer concludes: “We could diagnose a national case of “USA face” given that America recently ranked 18th in the U.N.’s “World Happiness Report.”

The researcher described in New York Magazine offers a college course to improve one’s happiness that is “packed with scientifically-tested methods to actively improve your well being.” But why should your face look happier?

In fact, our website has found other studies that show correlations between facial manifestations and happiness on one hand, and health and happiness on the other. So if happiness and health are linked causally, faces become likely indicators of those mind and body states. And, as demonstrated by “smile therapy” and surgical enhancements, faces can also become powerful activators of well being.

Such assumptions support the dual premises of the novel Faces Tell All ; namely, that faces have power to 1) reveal and 2) affect our human condition—power which can be exploited for good or ill, utilizing advanced scanning and projection technology.

In the first premise, Faces Tell All imagines a scenario where spy agencies employ surveillance and imbedded cameras to surreptitiously monitor individuals and groups—revealing their identities, whereabouts and activities as well as their overall fitness, moods and attitudes.

One possible target, in the real world, could be, say, a factory or government employee caught on video hiding on the job, or looking lazy, dissolute or disgruntled. His telltale location and appearance would be of interest to authorities monitoring the health, capabilities and loyalties of a nation’s worker’s. (More on that topic will follow in the next blog dealing with Chinese surveillance and its Social Credit System.)

In the second premise, of projected facial imagery that affects our beliefs and behaviors,

Faces Tell All predicts the aforementioned use of cinematic images: doctored videos, documentaries and biased fictional narratives as weapons of propaganda and cultural warfare. In the novel, believability is enhanced by brain wave entrainment technology—now in the laboratory stage but lurking in the near future as a plausible mode of cinematic mind control.

Also noteworthy: The 2018 Time Magazine special edition on the Science of Emotions reported on a cultural phenomenon known as Emotional Contagion, in which, like the common cold, people spread basic emotions like love, joy, fear and sadness.

Time’s editors conclude: “This might mean that we frown if the person we are conversing with is frowning or adjust our posture to synchronize with theirs. People also tend to experience feedback from their own facial expressions and body language. Some studies suggest that smiling or frowning may actually make people feel better or worse.”

A similar phenomenon is illustrated in Faces Tell All when Paul, a main character, experiences a powerful revelation watching peoples’ faces change in a subway car. He is dismayed to see a woman he is staring at, scowl at him but discovers why, when he sees his own scowling face reflected in the car window. Realizing the connection, he relaxes his face into a friendly smile and sees it mirrored back to him.