Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Joelogon's Theorem of Avatar Attractiveness

The attractiveness of a person's online avatar* is inversely proportional to their actual physical attractiveness.

*For our purposes, an avatar is a graphic (usually non-photo) representation of a person's self in a blog, forum, virtual world, or other online social communication medium. It is not necessarily a person's allegation of their literal appearance.

The hotter the forum avatar, profile graphic, sig image, or graphic tag, the uglier the person is in real life.

The Rationale
People who are generally judged by others to be attractive will just use their own picture to represent themselves online (where technically applicable).

Similarly, people who view themselves as attractive, or are simply comfortable with their appearance, will also use their own picture.

Alternately, they may highlight another aspect of their personality -- interest, hobby, family, favorite graphic meme, etc.

However, people who know that they are not conventionally attractive, yet have a desire to be seen as such, will choose a graphic idealization of themselves that meets or exceeds societal standards of beauty.

There are two primary motivations:
  1. Aspiration: They want to be seen as beautiful, perhaps even wanting the benefits of being beautiful -- better treatment, more attention, etc.
  2. Delusion: They have an over- or hyper-exaggerated sense of their own attractiveness, and take advantage of the online medium to show their "true self."
In either case, the person will often overcompensate by going to an extreme, choosing a hyper-sexualized archetype of desirability (porn star, Playboy model, etc.).

Observations and Exceptions

* People to whom this theorem applies may not be (and in fact, probably aren't) trying to say their avatar is what they actually look like (as opposed to "fakers"). Rather, their avatar is a supplement to their real world appearance.

* It seems to occur more with females (particularly teenage girls) -- also see the gender discrepancy in fake photo exposé sites like Another win for the male gaze! (Can't speak to the male gays, though.)

* The male equivalent of this phenomena may lie in visual expressions of toughness, strength, wealth, violence or other traditional signifiers of masculinity.

* Men's avatars are often images of female porn stars or other celebrities. This is because guys like looking at hot chicks.

* 3-D avatars: Since overly realistic avatars run the risk of falling into the Uncanny Valley, users may shy away from realistic depictions of themselves.

* Nonhuman avatars (including aliens, animals, robots, furries, vampires, etc): Presumably, the theorem applies, to the extent that the avatar is a representation of the person's self-image (and not simply expression of an interest).

No comments: