I don't need Facebook to tell me that my longtime friend Jenny, shown above, is gorgeous and fascinating. But apparently it doesn't hurt.
A new study from the University of Missouri has found that positive comments posted on your Facebook profile photo can act as "social cues" that make you seem more attractive "physically, socially, and professionally" to those viewing the photo.
Here's how the university summarized the findings:
In other words, people think you're hotter when they see other people calling you hot. But it also helps if the photo shows you doing something that's specific to your personality and passions.
Facebook users whose profile photos include social cues, additional information about the user, and many positive comments on their profile photos are viewed much more socially and physically attractive than users who have fewer social cues and negative comments on their profile photos.
This study sparked a lot of debate today in the halls of Luckie, where we wondered what exactly these findings say about us. Are our opinions so easily persuaded that we can't even decide how we feel about someone's appearance unless someone tells us how to feel?
Personally, I take a more optimistic approach. I think this shows that we judge people not just on their looks, but also on their character. When you see positive comments from friends on someone's photo, it shows that their friends truly care about them. Yes, it's an endorsement, but it's the best kind of endorsement, the kind that's made from the heart with no expectation of anything in return.
Here's more information from the University of Missouri on how the study was performed and what it means for Facebook users who want to give a strong first impression online:
“These findings show how important it is to present yourself strategically on Facebook,” Hong said. “If you want to be perceived positively by people who view your profile page, including friends and potential employers, it is important to include profile pictures with positive social cues. No matter what the profile owner does to tailor their Facebook page, comments left on their page from other users should be monitored as well. Positive comments are very helpful, but negative remarks can be very damaging, even if they are silly or sarcastic."
Just for fun, I've attached a few more profile photos below from friends who volunteered to have their socially endorsed headshots shared with the public. (Do you find them more interesting simply because I'm telling you they are?)
So what do you think? Will this research change the way you approach your profile photo in the future? Do you really even care what people think about you based on a photo?