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Image credit: Will Lipman for Engadget (Original) / Daniel Cooper (Photoshop)

The internet knows how unattractive I am

What the world needs now: an app that lets people rate your selfies.
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Will Lipman for Engadget (Original) / Daniel Cooper (Photoshop)

Honestly, I'm fine with being unattractive, because owning your flaws is the best way to avoid becoming defined by them. But if the subject comes up in conversation, I'll joke that, on a hypothetical scale, I'm a "four ... in bad light." The internet, however, has enabled me to find out precisely how other people rate my attractiveness. It's been a fun week.

59.8. That's my average score, as calculated by the swaths of people using a selfie-judging app called Spontana. I've spent the past few days sharing pictures of myself on the service and receiving the unvarnished truth in response. Thankfully, I'm also able to dish it out, and have helped my fellow app users learn how other people rate them.

"I'm not a four -- I'm a five! I'd climbed a whole rung in the social order."

Spontana's premise is a weird mishmash of Instagram and Tinder, in that you can share selfies and have them rated, but it's also something of a dating service. Should you find someone who rates you as highly as you rate them, you'll be put in contact with one another. In addition, you can click through to someone's social media profile from their selfies, via Facebook, Instagram or VKontakte, Russia's Facebook equivalent.

The first thing you do is take a selfie and upload it. Between 30 seconds and a minute later, you'll get your rating. The majority of the service's users seem to be located in continental Europe, including Spain, Russia, Georgia and France.

The selfie, taken at lunchtime on a Monday after a restless night and no morning shave, gave me a score of 63, which felt fair. I will admit, I'm now deeply in love with the French woman and the Spanish woman who both rated me a seven out of ten. Gripped by the buzz, I uploaded a second, slightly older selfie and got a score of 56, suggesting that I'm not a four -- I'm a five! I'd climbed a whole rung in the social order.

From there, it came time to rate other users, which presented me with a series of unexpected ethical quandaries. Living in the glass house of being unattractive neither ugly nor pretty, it seems wrong to impose my standards upon other people. The first image I rated was pretty easy, since it featured a couple wearing animal masks that had been Prisma-filtered into meaninglessness. Ergo, it got a one.

The next image was of a pair of kids who appeared to be well below the age of 18. I immediately looked for a way to report the picture. First off, I'm not going to think about these kids as anything but kids and, less important, there's two of them in the shot, so which one was I supposed to judge? I reported the snap for inappropriate content and moved on, not learning until much later that you can swipe the pictures up to avoid rating them.

This is all incredibly messed up when you think about it. We're judging people based on their looks as if that's a viable metric for judging someone's character. It's a shallow, hideous expression of how debased we've become, although it's not as if we haven't been doing this since the beginning of time.

Then there's the fact that my totally objective opinion of someone's attractiveness is actually going to contribute to their online score. Who made me the arbiter of whether some Russian Instagrammer is prettier than a Spanish mother of two? Also, we all know there isn't a universal scale of attraction to begin with.

But on the other hand, these people -- myself included -- voluntarily submitted for this treatment. And so, precisely because I want their honesty, I should do my best to return the favor. It isn't long before I've developed a list of rules about how I'll judge people in order to not expose them to the full depths of human shallowness. For those I may ordinarily rate poorly, I'll gently inflate the score to cushion the blow, and I tried to -- as best as possible -- grade on a curve using the evidence in front of me. I also found myself going down the rabbit hole of each candidate's social media profile, which is a pretty stalkerish thing to do, but then again, the button is right there.

I eventually decided that it was time to go back to offering up images of myself, since that's easier than negotiating the ethical quagmire of rating others. I found a picture of myself from a trip to San Francisco, where I was looking particularly thin thanks to the excellent photography skills of my friend Phil. I thought it was pretty good, but the audience disagreed, and I wound up with a paltry, average-ruining score of 57. I go double or nothing and use my Twitter picture, which makes me look like a serial killer, but a handsome one. It gets a 60.

A day later, I decide to throw out one final selfie, with me looking bleary-eyed and haggard (I'd had three hours' sleep). My face is puffy, my T-shirt stretched, and I'm unconsciously doing that one-eyebrow-raised thing that awful men do in photos to try to look smart." It gets a 69, which makes me think that people are weird. But hell: I have scientific proof that I'm a 6.9 out of 10, and none of you can take that from me.

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