“Constant praise does bad things to human beings. It’s much like any other drug that affects our dopamine levels: provided sparingly, it induces brief sensations of warmth and happiness, but provided constantly, it induces dependency. Just like the cocaine addict requires constant bumps just to get to ‘normal’, so too does the praise addict require constant reassurance just to function.”—Andrew Miller, “The Perils of Praise,” Committing Sociology (June 15, 2015)
Though famously ugly, Socrates was a skilled seducer of the young and beautiful. Alcibiades attests to this in The Symposium, and we can witness him in action in Charmides, wherein he quickly gains the undivided attention of the quintessential cool kid: “at that moment, when I saw Charmides coming in, I must confess that I was quite astonished at his beauty and stature; all the world seemed to be enamored of him; amazement and confusion reigned when he entered; and a troop of lovers followed him. . . . all of them, down to the very least child, turned and looked at him, as if he had been a statue.”
Though old, funny looking, poor, and powerless, Socrates could always get the attention of the hottest person in the room. How does he do it? Well, he ignores them: and this causes them to find him extraordinarily interesting. Because extremely good looking people are used to being worshiped. Indeed, they’ve come not only to expect, but to need that attention. From everyone! So if you hold out on them, if you withhold that worship, they’ll gravitate towards you.
Overgrown vanity is a delicate flower that needs daily watering. Socrates was well aware of this weakness and he exploited it often. That he wanted these beautiful young people for students and disciples, not lovers, is beside the point: because seduction is seduction, whether you’re seducing a body or a mind. Socrates would surely say, in his defense, that the philosophical ends justify the manipulative means. And I’d disagree with him. But, be that as it may, if this recurring theme in the Platonic dialogues makes anything clear, it’s that privilege isn’t always a privilege. Great beauty—like great wealth or great power—can make people weak and surprisingly easy to manipulate.
—John Faithful Hamer, The Myth of the Fuckbuddy (2016)