Social capital maintained based on appearances???

This week’s articles really got me thinking about the kinds of relationships and social capital I maintain, keep and/or manage with my friends, families and acquaintances on and offline.

Starting the Hancock (2007) article on online dating I was concerned about what the gender differences might represent on the values we prefer as a society. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find out females, no more than males, tended to deceive their counterparts only slightly that the deceptions (such as height and weight) would not even be recognizable by the naked eye. Though it was interesting that women lied more about their weight more so than men did and men lied more so about their height than women did. I believe this is because there are different kinds of expectations for women than men in our society. Females are expected to look thinner, tidier, prettier, cleaner, etc. more so than what is inherently expected for males in modern society, at least, in my opinion. As a female I catch myself in surprise judging females if they are overweight, sloppy at times and making up excuses for men if I spot them with a beer belly, with a stain on their shirt, with a bushy, unkempt hairstyle in the morning, etc. What does that say about what we came to believe whether consciously or subconsciously of how we are “expected to appear in public?”


“Extensive research in sociobiology and evolutionary psychology suggests that men and women use different strategies for enhancing their reproductive fitness, according to the requirements of their biological makeup. In general, men look for youth and physical attractiveness in their partners, whereas women look for ability to provide and indicators of social status, such as education and career” (Hancock, 2007, p. 450).


This is EXACTLY why women are more likely to care about their appearances because that is what men, in general, look for in women. Ahhhh what a pity! However, such an interesting study, I must say.


As I started to tie Hancock’s article with Ellison’s (2007) article I wondered if we were more likely to try harder to maintain a relationship and therefore social capital with people based on their appearances. And then I got a little scared.


FB is a unique tool for me and obviously many people find it fascinating, useful, fun, etc. I find it useful because it allows me to maintain many “weak ties” and bridging social capital as Ellison (2007) describes. When I took a closer look at whom I maintain the online to offline relationship with I realized that a lot of my friends were attractive, accomplished men and women. Obviously the scale of attractiveness is very different person to person but it made me wonder…am I self-selecting whom to hang out with because of what I might be perceived as by hanging out with certain types of people with certain looks and resumes?


About marialarahwang

Doctoral student at Teachers College, Columbia University.

One response to “Social capital maintained based on appearances???”

  1. marialarahwang says :

    If you have not yet, I highly recommend Hitsch’s (2006) article What makes you click? – Mate preferences and matching outcomes in online dating. The authors use a set of equations to explain and predict mate preferences and matching outcomes in the particular online dating site they chose to use.

    Adachi and Gale-Shapley’s models (3. A Modeling Framework for Analyzing User Behavior from page 10) are very interesting to me especially because I just saw the movie “Moneyball” with Brad Pitt yesterday in the theaters. In this movie a GM for the Oakland professional baseball team tries to use a set of equations to determine the players’ worth, potential and predicted future hits and runs and therefore their contribution to the overall team’s wins. It worked out well for Oakland and it resulted in an unprecedented 20-in-a-row win streak.

    At first Hotsch’s (2006) article seemed kind of ridiculous to measure outcomes and potential mates and what not through equations but actually people do exhibit similar behavior in all situations as much as they expose unique behaviors. Many of the authors’ assumptions were sound, drawing from basic human, psychological, anthropological, and social behaviorism. Therefore, equations developed and derived from those assumptions are also worth taking a look at. If anything, as a former math teacher, it excites me that math appears in many different contexts besides just in pure, academic math contexts ☺

    The following is some of the observations that I made from Hitsch’s article that I thought were interesting:

    “A visible difference between the dating site and the population at large is the over-representation of men on the site. 54.7% of users in Boston and 56.1% of users in San Diego are men” (p. 8).

    → To me this was kind of surprising. I don’t know why but I thought more women would be on online dating sites.

    “However, less than 1% of men’s and women’s activities (e-mails sent) is accounted for by married people. This suggests that a small number of people in a long term relationship may be using the site as a search outlet. Of course, one may expect the true percentage of otherwise committed people to be higher than reported” (p. 8).

    → I am not sure if I am understanding this correctly but if it is what it sounds like (i.e., married people using the site to search things, as in for better partners and/or to spy on their current spouses?), it is quite disturbing. Also, why do you think the authors state that we might expect a higher percentage of people who are committed? I would believe the opposite is true. If you are in a committed relationship, why would you be on the site anyways unless it was for some research purpose?

    Some of the findings are easily understood and align with the findings that were presented in Hancock’s (2007) article. These findings include that women emphasize income in their potential mates than men do in women, that younger generations with higher education and income are dominant on these online dating sites, etc. However, it was surprising to find out that women were more likely to find and prefer mates within their same race more so than med would. I definitely thought the opposite was true.

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