As if we didn’t have enough things in this world telling us we’re not pretty enough, now there’s this: Anaface, a computer program that claims it can tell you how beautiful you are by analyzing your face. Science, don’t you have anything better to do than find new ways to perpetuate impossible beauty standards?
Here’s how it works: First, you upload a photo of your face to the Anaface website. Then the site instructs you to place 17 different markers at various points on the photo — your forehead, the corners of your mouth, your jawline, and so on. After you’ve placed all the makers, the site uses an algorithm to calculate how really, really, ridiculously good-looking you are and ranks you on a scale of one to 10.
Anaface creator Bryan Cooley told the Daily Mail, “The algorithm we use is based on a combination of neo-classical beauty measures, substantial research and statistical analysis” — but I call bullshit. From a purely practical standpoint, one of the program’s biggest flaws is that there’s an awful lot of room for error; since you have to manually place all the markers yourself, it’s incredibly likely you’ll misplace a few of them. For example, I put Scarlett Johansson through the program, and here are the results:
Scarlett Johansson, a seven out of 10? That seems… odd. And it’s probably my fault, because putting all those little markers down accurately is both tedious and difficult. But more importantly — and maybe this is just me, but I feel it’s worth saying — there’s this: I don’t think an algorithm can fully explain why we find certain things beautiful.
It’s true that a number of experiments have shown facial symmetry to be more attractive; but while I understand it in theory, I just don’t see it in reality. Have you seen all those photo manipulations floating around out there that take an image of someone’s face and make it perfectly symmetrical? The results always look incredibly strange to me, and I'm willing to bet that I'm not the only one. Besides, what might be the most massive turn-off to one person might be the biggest turn-on in the world to another. Maybe symmetry is beautiful, but our flaws and our imperfections are what make us unique — and I’ll take unique over “classically beautiful” (whatever that means) any day.
So you know what, Anaface? You can keep your algorithm. I’d rather look at the world without it — imperfections and all.