Beauty in the Digital Age

January 21, 2013 | Sarah

Study after study repeatedly shows that people who are more attractive experience more professional success than their less attractive counter-parts. On average, good-looking people are more likely to rise to top of their companies’ ladder, and they on average earn 3-4 times more than people who are not considered attractive. They are also more likely to land an interview with a company, and have higher rates of being hired by a company and progress more professionally.

There have been many attempts to explain why this is the case. Economist from the University at Texas Austin, Daniel Hamermesh attempted to dissect all the reasons in his book Beauty Pays: Why Attractive People Are More Successful. He successfully narrowed down the reasons to sex appeal and the self-confidence from being perceived as beautiful by society. Positive self-esteem often translates into a positive work ethic in the office, which in turn, allows more attractive people to experience more success in the work force.

However, Hamermesh’s book fails to recognize that as society has become more advanced technically, with social media and television dominating everyday life, images have made a much larger impact on people than ever before. In order for something to sell, gain a readership or a following of any sort, it is imperative that is displayed in a visually appealing manner. Beauty therefore has become so highly prized in our society; we reward the people who are perceived this way professionally, socially, and politically.

Before the current day of age where beautiful images of airbrushed models now dominate America, people were more grounded in ideas instead of images. A homely and gangly man such as Abraham Lincoln would have never been able to survive the current media culture, which has devoted more time to analyzing Mitt Romney’s hair and Hillary’s suits than their respective policies. Similarly Thomas Jefferson, a horrible public speaker, would have been seen as lacking charisma and therefore unqualified to write the Declaration of Independence if he was judged by today’s image-driven media.

Instead of being driven by transient images, the educated of the past grounded themselves more into the substance of everyday life. Good looks were considered a benefit, but they did not wield nearly the amount of power that they do now. For instance, during the ratification of the Constitution, what we now know and cherish as the Federalist Papers by Madison, Jay, and Hamilton appeared as op-eds in newspapers. When comparing that to what is typically seen in the tabloids emphasizing appearance or weight loss, it is easy to see how our image culture has degenerated us. If the qualities of people’s ideas have been eclipsed for their personal appearance, then the amount of substance society can expect in its leaders and careerist can be considerably lessened.

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