In a video uploaded to YouTube last month, a teenage girl stares into her camera and asks random unknown viewers, "Am I hot?" A mop-topped boy posts a video asking "Should I get a haircut?"
It seems vanity has gone viral. Whether you're fishing for compliments, or maybe a little positive feedback, video-sharing Web sites have become modern-day mirrors … with perfect strangers staring back, critiquing your face, your weight or your hair.
Just ask Sarah James, a mother from Newport Beach, Calif. Last summer, she was debating whether to cut her bangs. So she started an online poll on her blog, Whoorl.com. To her surprise, more than 700 total strangers cast a ballot on the question of her haircut.
"At first I just thought it would just be voting on the actual hairstyle," James said, "but I found now it's sort of snowballing into advice from other women about hairstyles or even makeup or just beauty tips."
Now she's letting others experience some online vanity. She started "Hair Thursday," a wildly popular feature, where she posts pictures from indecisive readers, who want total strangers to vote in favor of cuts, curls or color. And there are plenty of takers. Her waiting list of "Hair Thursday" applicants is now 150 people long. So she's turning it into a new Web site – www.hairthursday.com.
"I have enough candidates to last me through February of 2009, so I'm a busy girl," James said.
Hers is hardly the first site offering online reassurance to those who may be a little insecure about their appearance. For eight years now, people have uploaded their picture to www.hotornot.com, asking readers … you guessed it, am I "hot or not?" Another one, www.ratemyface.com, invites people to weigh in on a strangers visage. And on www.ratemybody.com, you can size up a stranger from head to toe.
"I think that people feel that when they're anonymous they can give a more truthful opinion," James said. "They can say exactly what they feel and I think women are kind of looking for honesty with polling on the Internet now."
But opinions on a personal, maybe even trivial decision like your haircut? Isn't that best left to your sister, your mom, or perhaps your hairstylist?
"We're a big narcissistic environment now and you know what, there's nothing wrong with it. It's harmless really," said Lorraine Massey, a stylist who runs the high-end Devachan Salon in New York City.
"What else do you think it would it be if you're posting a picture of yourself and people you would never meet in this lifetime may say things to you about you. You know, it's quite interesting really, because you're obviously not getting it from around you. Your environmental is not helping you out. So you're seeking else where, which is kind of sad in a strange way," she added.
Sad or not, Massey believes it's perfectly ok to seek advice from anyone, anywhere. Even strangers on the Internet. As long as you leave the cutting to the pros.