You might have heard of the infamous website: “Hot or Not” (http://hotornot.com). People desiring to participate in this particular social experiment post the hottest picture of themselves they can rustle up, then take a deep breath and press “submit,” inviting mass evaluation from other users of the site. Obviously, you hope for a high score…right? [Out of pure journalistic curiosity, I gave this a try on Monday–since then, over 2,000 people have voted on my “hotness” (on a scale from 1 to 10), and some even joined my pool of “hot-mirers”. It’s apparently also a dating site, which I didn’t realize until I received a marriage proposal! I had to decline, sorry about that Skinny16!
(Need to consult about your Hotmirers? Find out how!)
Why do all of these people care about voting on the hotness of strangers? HotorNot, and subsequent copycat sites, and basically the whole of high school and college, seem predicated on a three-tiered assumption-cake:
- if lots of people agree you’re hot stuff, then you must be hot stuff
- hot people have a better choice of lovers
- people with more choices lead better, more satisfying lives
Wait, wait, wait. You might have been eating this cake for years, but let’s take a closer look. Does this “collective assessment” of your hotness really exist? For it to matter what a group of voters think of your phizzog[i], it would need to be true that people generally agree on how good looking everyone is. But do they? In the mid-70s, a fellow named Murstein[ii] asked 98 young married couples to rate how attractive their spouse was. Eight independent judges made the same ratings (based on photographs[iii]). The judges, who were rather harsh in my opinion, only thought 21-24% of the spouses possessed “above average” attractiveness. By contrast, a whopping 67% of wives and 85% of husbands thought their own spouse was average-average! (85% of newly married husbands think their wife is hot—that made me happy). Curiously, spouses thought they had hit the jackpot with their own spouse, while independent judges sat by, shaking their heads in pity. At least 65% of husbands disagreed with the judges–that’s a lot of disparity! Such research makes me question Hotornot.com’s concept of a static level of attractiveness. Is this really the right way to think about it? Does it make more sense that I am quantitatively an 8, for example, or does it sound more likely that some people will think I’m a 6 while some very charitable soul will think I’m a 9? Perhaps it is useful to know your “average”–and Hotornot.com will tell you that. But it seems to me that beauty, within certain limitations, really is in the eye of the beholder. This conclusion clearly falls in the “fabulous news” category. If people don’t agree on your hotness, that means you have a spectrum to work with, not just a number. Maybe with your face, body, and personality, people rate you from a 5 to a 9. Your “group think” score on Hot or Not might be a 6.5, but do you hear what I’m saying? Who cares about that–there are people out there who think you’re a 9! Here’s my advice: date those people. Make sure that other person thinks you’re hot stuff before you commit. If someone’s not that into you, just remember this: they don’t speak for everyone. Forget them, and your “hot or not” score, and go find somebody who will be psyched to have you.
[iii] While on the one hand, you could argue that people are better-looking in person than in photographs, anyone who has ever participated in on-line dating can tell you this isn’t the case.