Are You Preoccupied With Social Status? (Survey Says: Yes)

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November 30, 2012 ‐ By

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Business Insider reports on a new book, coming soon to a seller near you – Contagious: Why Things Catch On by Jonah Berger– that concerns itself, in part, with this idea of “social currency.” Usually a phrase heard in marketing, Wikipedia has this definition:

Social currency is a common term that can be understood as the entirety of actual and potential resources which arise from the presence in social networks and communities, may they be digital or offline.

The story cites a Harvard study that found people are more likely to take a job where they make $50,000 rather than a job that would earn them $100,000. In the first instance, the respondents would be making twice as much as their hypothetical colleagues; in the second, they’d be making half as much as the imaginary people they work with.

“They preferred to do better than others, even if it meant getting less for themselves,” the article says.

Put in other terms, participants preferred to have the social status that comes with making more money than others, rather than the goods that come with making more money, period.

Social status doesn’t only come with money. One only need to listen to the latest chart-topping songs to know that. Kanye and Jay Z don’t just talk about all the stuff that they have that you don’t. They talk about the lifestyle that their fame and fortune affords — going places and doing interesting things (like hanging out in Paris or some other far-off place). The Herald-Sun in Australia reports that “keeping up with the Joneses” these days means exactly that.

“The New Joneses are still middle class but instead of buying the latest kitchen appliance they spend their money on learning a new language, taking an exotic vacation or developing a new skill in craft,” the paper says. “They want fewer objects and more experiences.”

In the online world, that means having more “friends” and followers. The media regularly keeps tabs on the number of millions of people tracking the tweets of Justin Bieber or Rihanna. And Psy, the Korean pop sensation who brought us “Gangnam Style,” toppled the Biebs as the most-watched YouTube video over the Thanksgiving weekend. This, we’re told is significant, even if the Biebs is still winning in actual album sales.

This doesn’t mean that having nice things is totally unimportant. But these two stories suggest that we’re more willing to sacrifice cold-hard, quantifiable dollars for this more undetermined and un-spendable “social currency.” Are you?

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  • http://www.facebook.com/britney.gulledge Britney Gulledge

    “The New Joneses are still middle class but instead of buying the latest kitchen appliance they spend their money on learning a new language, taking an exotic vacation or developing a new skill in craft,” this excerpt resonated with me. I wouldn’t completely agree on wanting less material things, because best believe once you’re on your exotic destination you have to look the part, but I have seen the trend of living the coveted lifestyle. With the increased popularity of social sites such as Instagram, it is no longer important to write or talk about your life but prove it via photos.

  • Blackmon

    50,000 in a field where most people make 25,000

    as opposed to making 100,000, when your peers/the people in the same field/the people around you are making 200,000.

  • Pagerand40@bluntzforlife.com

    He be makin dem sense when be axin bout deez chains and dem rim z’s make moni but tel mi dis be bout mi pager and not deez rimz . Not no peepsz makin

  • Bigrignig

    White Power!!!

  • brooklynarcher

    I see this social currency all the time. People will invest all of their time constructing this image of an exciting life on various social media than actually investing time to have a real dynamic life plus the fun parts. They stake their worth and cred on how many virtual followers and friends they have versus things like grades, careers, and etc.

  • Just saying!!

    I think I finally get what you’re trying to say but it wasn’t explained very well. I got the impression that the author was saying people would rather make less and do something where they can be recognized or have prestige of some sort rather than make a lot of money without any social status. But I could be wrong….

  • Alohilani

    “The story cites a Harvard study that found people are more likely to take a job where they make $50,000 rather than a job that would earn them $100,000.”

    Huh? People opted to make $50,000 instead of $100,000 because why?

    • jjac401

      I know – it doesn’t make any sense. LOL!

    • TeahMonae

      Didn’t get that part either! Re-read it to see what I was missing and still didn’t get it.

      • DUMBBEACHPLEASE

        IN THE 50,000 JOB THEY’D EARN MORE THAN EVERYONE ELSE AROUND THEM. IN THE 100,000 JOB THEY’D EARN LESS. IT’S LIKE BEING A DOCTOR MAKING 100K A YEAR OPPOSED TO A PERSONAL ASSISTANT MAKING 150k.

    • brooklynarcher

      Having a $50,000 job plus going to exclusive parties and having trendy things vs. making $100,000 stuck in an office somewhere all the time, not going anywhere, not meeting fun and interesting people. That’s what I took it to basically mean.

      • sabrina

        Wait…I believe the article was trying to say the following: those who chose to make $50,000 would be making way more money than their counterparts (who would be making around $25,000). Those who would be making $100,000 would be making considerably less than their counterparts (who would be making $200,000). So basically, it seems that people would rather be financially superior, even if that means they would be making less money.

        Hope this helps! :)

        • TGarcia

          You got it!

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