EDITORIAL: A Virtual Me? No, Thanks

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At first glance, My Virtual Model, the tool on Landsend.com where shoppers enter their dimensions to get a virtual representation of themselves, seemed like a terrible selling idea to me.


After all, how many people want to see themselves accurately reproduced in cyberspace? Most of us can't even stand having photos taken of ourselves.


However, not one to criticize without trying it, I went to the Lands' End Web site and made a virtual Ken (spare us the virtual Barbie letters, please).


During the process, the Web site warned:


"Remember, I will look like you as much as you want. So if you lie to me, then I'll lie to you too."


Hell, I want my virtual model to lie to me whether I lie to it or not. Hasn't fashion always been about lies? In fact, a better selling tool than a virtual model would probably be "My Personal Delusion."


Here's how it would work: After clicking the My Personal Delusion button, users would be asked for the usual ... name, height and weight:


"Ken, 5'11", 250 pounds."


And here's where My Personal Delusion would go to work. All it would take is a little text.


"Two hundred and fifty pounds, Ken? That's not possible. You look more like 220 pounds. And let's round up to 6 feet even. OK? Click here."


Click.


"Doing a little business-casual shopping I see, Ken. May we recommend these two pants, and five shirts? Not quite Geranimals, but effortlessly mix-and-match all the same. Just click here, and they'll be shipped within 24 hours."


Click.


"And may we recommend athletic fit in the shirts, Ken? You're looking like those workouts have been paying off. We guarantee they'll fit or your money back."


Athletic fit, eh? Haven't been able to wear those since my 20s. Well, if you say so ...


Click.


And, of course, the shirts would fit perfectly without the online shopper ever having been subjected to a realistic cybermodel of himself.


Meanwhile, there is evidence that the My Virtual Model people had people's aversion to their true body images in mind when they built their product. I raised virtual Ken's weight several times, and 250-pound virtual Ken looked just like 300-pound virtual Ken, who looked like 500-pound virtual Ken, all fairly husky, but nonetheless well-built-looking guys. Hmmm ... maybe My Virtual Model isn't so self-destructively truthful after all.
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