Attractive friends make you more popular online

Attractive faces win friendsFancy extending your online influence using social networks? It’s possible, of course, but you are more likely to succeed if you choose the right friends in the first place..! When people decide whether or not add you as a friend on Facebook, or to connect with you on LinkedIn, one of the frequent checks made is a look through your existing contacts. When asked why they do this, people often reply with statements like “just seeing who else they know” or “finding out if I know any of their contacts”. Whilst those may well be true, there is another, hidden reason why people flick through your contact list.

They want to see how many of your friends are attractive. Darwinian theory suggests that in order for the “survival of the fittest” we have in-built mechanisms to ensure that the best genes survive. Hence we are always on the lookout for people who appear to have good genes and one marker of that is people we judge to be attractive. And, so the theory goes, if you are surrounded by attractive people, then you too must be attractive genetically as otherwise you wouldn’t have so many gorgeous friends.

This theory was recently tested by researchers from The Netherlands who asked people to rate the attractiveness of several individuals simply by looking at their photographs. Then, when they had graded the photographs according to attractiveness they created some Facebook profiles and added the highly attractive photos to one profile as friends and the less attractive individuals to a second profile. A group of participants were then invited to rate the appeal of the profiles. Unsurprisingly, the profiles with the highly attractive people as friends were rated as much more appealing than the profiles with the less attractive individuals in them. However, there were no other differences in the profiles – the participants in the study appeared to be basing their judgement of the profile owners solely on the attractiveness of the “friends”.

At first sight this may seem to imply you need only to seek out attractive people as friends. However, you are already, unknowingly, doing that because of your in-built drive for “survival of the fittest”. Remember, the researchers manipulated the profiles so that one was full of unattractive photos. Your friend are friends because they are attracted to you – and hence other people with your kind of desires for attractiveness will also find them appealing.

The real issue is about those unattractive photos in your social networking profiles. What this research suggests is that unattractive photos can lead to people deciding not to connect with you. So instead of trying to only find attractive people, you will probably gain more benefit if you rid your social networking profiles of bad pictures and those daft images people have for their own profiles, such as of a rubber duck, or their pet dog. Having those kinds of images on your Facebook profile, because that’s what some of your friends have, could actually decrease your chances of gaining more friends and contacts. It is yet more evidence that pictures matter – especially profile pictures.

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