Who’s Hot and Who’s Not: The Fitsort Phenomenon

Who is the fittest fresher in Durham? Is that girl who keeps giving you the eye in Jimmy’s hot? Is your boyfriend attractive? Arguments have started, friendships have been strained and relationships left in tatters by these eternal questions. The problem starts with our caveman base 10 system of rating. Exactly how hot is a 7 out of 10 anyway? Dan Ariely teaches us in Predictably Irrational that we are next to useless at absolutely valuing things. However, we excel at making relative decisions based on comparisons. I can’t tell you exactly how much a Mars bar is worth to me, but it’s worth more than a Twix (other chocolate bars are available).

Up until recently we have been doomed in our futile attempt to rate girls and guys absolutely on our crude scale. Now, thanks to a bunch of Cambridge students, there is another way. Fitsort allows us to compare our friends like we compare chocolate bars. Two Facebook friends pop up on screen and a simple decision must be made. Which one is fitter? The decision is made with a simple click of the mouse on the fitter friend’s picture. Points are awarded to the hotter friend and taken from the less hot friend. The beauty of the system doesn’t stop there though. These Cambridge students are smart. The rating system gives a point bonus if your average Joe overturns the Brad Pitt of your friends. Similarly if Joe beats the hunchback of Notre Dame he will receive only a meagre sum of points for his efforts. A table ranking your friends from the top point scorers to the bottom point scorers as well as your own personal tally are also available. As increasing comparisons are made a better and better representation is given of how good looking we all are relative to our friends.

A new era has been born. Don’t ask your friends to rate your latest love interest out of ten, add her on Facebook and check out her Fitsort score. Alternatively you could come to your own informed decision of her attractiveness, but where’s the fun in that?

You may, by now, have jumped onto Fitsort only to find that the number one girl isn’t the fittest girl at all. She is just the “Queen Bee” of your old school, who focused more on her make-up than her algebra. She hasn’t managed to cheat the system (she was never that smart anyway), but Economics can help us explain why she’s sitting at the top of the pile. Behavioural Economics offers two supporting explanations. Firstly, people will make certain decisions if they feel other people will approve of them. In other words, my friends think she is hot so I will say she is hot too. Potentially nobody actually thinks she’s particularly attractive at all, but she rises to the top anyway because people want to conform and be accepted. Secondly, we are creatures of habit. Perhaps the girl used to be hot and we cannot accept that she’s not as attractive as she once was. We cling onto the sentiment of her past attractiveness. We are not such fickle creatures after all.

Sure, the “hottest” girl is overrated, but what about the rest of us? Do we deserve to be dumped into the bottom half of the table, below the magical 1000 points par for the course score? If you are languishing, Behavioural Economics could boost your score. However, skipping dessert, exerting yourself in the gym or buying that Jack Wills Gilet everyone else is wearing won’t help. People remember what you used to be like and will vote accordingly; it is difficult to change people’s opinions of how you look. Instead you should aim to change people’s perception of how others view you. Behavioural Economics informs us that people wish to copy behaviour to conform. If you can convince people that everyone else thinks you’re hot, they will start voting for you and your points score will soar. This can be achieved by “acting hot”. If you act the way that girl or guy at the top of the table acts, people will become convinced that you must be hot.

Maybe I shouldn’t be getting carried away though. Fitsort is fun; it’s possibly an even better procrastination tool than Facebook. But maybe that’s all it is. I hope everyone doesn’t start trying to act hot, because if they do, they will lose something much more important, their personality. Perhaps Economists haven’t quite sussed out how to rank people in their entirety. Perhaps we never will. The problem comes when we try to rate people like we rate chocolate bars. People are too different for us to judge them relatively against each other; and Economics tells us we are bad at judging things absolutely. Perhaps this is one area of life Economists can’t quantify. Even if we could compare people like we compare chocolate bars, some crazy people would prefer a Twix to a Mars bar. We all have our own unique opinions. Beauty is, after all, in the eye of the beholder.