For almost two years, Annie Bonelli, dubbed the «scar girl» by many TikTok viewers, has been questioned about her facial scar. But in recent months, curiosity about his scar has reached a fever pitch, with people online trying to decipher whether the long, linear mark on Bonelli’s cheek, which has changed in shape, color and length over time, time, is it real or fake.

Videos under the #ScarGirl hashtag have garnered more than 359 million views. Many users have taken the discussion further by creating #ScarGirlExposed TikToks, racking up a total of 26 million views as of Thursday night. Some of these creators have done frame-by-frame breakdowns of videos of him, and several have accused Bonelli of using makeup to obscure his scar. Others have started posting makeup tutorials and TikTok filters mocking Bonelli’s scar.

I feel like on social media people feel very comfortable, especially with influencers in general, to comment on things because they don’t always see them as real people. Like, I’m a real person.

Annie Bonelli, nicknamed ‘girl with the scars’ on Tiktok

Although he doesn’t think these reactions are «correct,» Bonelli said he has «thick skin.» She understands that backlash is the result of posting on social media every day.

“My parents always told me, ‘Don’t say things about people’s bodies, don’t make comments about other people, don’t say things about what other people can’t control,’” Bonelli, 18, told NBC News. “I feel like on social media people feel very comfortable, especially with influencers in general, to comment on things because they don’t always see them as real people. Like, I’m a real person.»

Brooke Erin Duffy, an associate professor of communication at Cornell University, said the interest in Bonelli’s scar is an example of «authenticity policing» on social media. Authenticity surveillance occurs when people continually examine a person’s self-presentation as false or misleading. Audiences are drawn to influencers who seem «authentic» and are outraged when they feel a creator is creating content for the wrong reasons.

“It also speaks to a lot of the ways that not only women, but influencers are treated as well,” Duffy said. “What do you want to do when you attack someone on social media? There’s just this recurring criticism that they’re faking it somehow. They’re faking their success, they’re faking their looks, they’re faking their career. And a lot of that is tied to the broader culture of social media, where people are trying to figure out what is real and what is represented in these spaces.”

Bonelli, who goes by @wtmab on TikTok and has more than 750,000 followers, said she avoided addressing her scar until recently, when people became more interested in it.

«When people found out and got curious, I still didn’t mention anything about the scar because I didn’t want that to be me, like who I was,» Bonelli said. «Because it’s not who I am. So I think it honestly made people more curious.»

Despite his attempts to address the rumors about his scar, some users have greeted it with anger and skepticism in the comments section of his videos. Over time, Bonelli said she accepted that she «can’t please everyone.»

“I continue to live my life, especially despite the hate,” he said. «Some people are always going to say something, and I shouldn’t let that faze me.»

Bonelli said he got the scar in March 2021 when he was 15 and a junior in high school. He declined to share specific details because «it’s just a very personal issue.»

«Looking in the mirror, sometimes it can be hard because I know exactly where he’s from,» Bonelli said of his scar. “But at the same time, I feel like it kind of empowers me. It’s like, you know, I’m over that.»

The scar started to fade after a few months, which is seen on several of Bonelli’s TikToks from June 2021. However, Bonelli said the scar worsened after he tried using a topical treatment to fade his initial scar in late 2021. He said he suffered a chemical burn from the topical, which created a new wound on top. of the scar

“It was bubbly and bloody and disgusting,” he said. “…That became a new wound on top, so [the scar became] significantly more, because I put it on carelessly. I wasn’t thinking I would have a reaction like that, but I also have very sensitive skin, so I probably should have taken that into account.»

Bonelli said she did not receive her first topical treatment from a doctor and delayed seeing a medical professional after suffering a chemical burn.

“I was so petrified about it. I also have a great fear of doctors and stuff,” he said.

He said he started seeing a dermatologist in August 2022. He said his doctor is putting him on a new treatment to fade the scar. Bonelli declined to share dermatology appointment records with NBC News.

“Scars can come in all colors, all shapes and sizes, and they can change as they heal, especially as more damage is done to them,” Bonelli said. «The problem is that people don’t understand that there were like two separate injuries, which is more why people are caught up in it.»

On January 11, Bonelli made a video cleaning his scar with makeup removers on camera to test the authenticity of the scar. In her caption, she shared that she got her first scar from a «cruel situation» and explained her second injury from the topical treatment.

But the video did little to change the minds of his skeptics. Some commenters below her videos demanded that she «rub really hard» to prove she’s real. Others insisted that the scars cannot darken or change shape as Bonelli’s cut appears to have.

Dr. Tina S. Alster, a clinical professor of dermatology at Georgetown University, said wounds usually heal with some redness, and the scar fades closer to the color of a person’s skin over time. Scars may heal darker or lighter, depending on the circumstances of the injury or treatment. Alster declined to comment specifically on Bonelli’s scar.

«If the scar is exposed to sunlight or injured by friction or other trauma, the scar could darken,» Alster wrote in an email to NBC News. “Some scars become lighter than the original skin color if there are more lesions in the melanocytes (or tanning cells) or if there is a deeper (or more involved) lesion leading to fibrosis (thickening of the skin) than may cause color fading. ”

Amid the criticism, Bonelli also received some support from other TikTokers, including the musician. Nessa Barrett and lifestyle creator reagan baylee, who frequently talks about her own «facial difference» on the app. Even skeptics have spoken out against the amount of hate in Bonelli’s comments section, saying others have taken the scar debate too far.

“You guys are so mean for literally no reason why do you care so much,” one commenter wrote.

Regardless of what people think about the scar, Bonelli chooses to think positively about her situation.

The intrigue surrounding his scar has given him considerable platform and he said he has received messages of support from people who have had similar scars and experiences. She wants to continue to encourage people to embrace her scars, and in a tik tokshe previously said she hopes to use her platform to advocate for domestic violence awareness and body positivity.

“Even if all the physical scarring, that whole aspect is gone, my message is still there, because not everyone has physical scarring,” Bonelli said. “Everyone has scars, people have mental scars, emotional scars, I want to convey that to the world, whatever happens, you should be proud of your scars. And I have many plans in the future to carry my message, which I look forward to.”