Have you ever heard the expression, "The guy who has the most toys, wins"? This was obviously invented by someone keenly aware of status symbols. It may sound clever, but I have to wonder what they "win"; the adoration of the vendors they bought everything from? It sounds rather shallow doesn't it?
There are a lot of status symbols we use to impress others, both tangible and intangible. I've categorized them accordingly:
General appearance - an expensive "power suit" is used to denote your corporate status, whether worn by men or women. Your hair is also very important, not just how it is cut or styled, but who does it for you. Other things like glasses, jewelry, and watches are used more for effect as opposed to practicality. Breast augmentations fall under this category. Even our mannerisms, walk, and form of speech is used to send specific signals to others.
Trinkets - the latest technology always makes an impressive status symbol, be it a computer, a cell phone, a TV or camera, a game, etc. The only problem is technology changes at an astounding rate, thereby turning this into a nonstop game of one-upmanship. After all, what is "state-of-the-art" today, is a "has-been" tomorrow.
Automobiles - no other single product tells people your status better than the automobile you drive. Luxury car dealers have known this for years and have used it to their advantage in sales. Snob appeal is often more important than practicality.
Residences - there are two aspects to this: where you live, and what you live in; representing a symbiotic relationship. For example, if you have a magnificent house, yet live on the wrong side of the tracks, people will not care.
Recreation - this represents several things, boats, airplanes, swimming pools, RV's, etc., but it also includes such things as travel (the more exotic, the better), venues (such as resorts and hotels), and attending events (such as galas, benefits, awards presentations, etc.).
Interpersonal relationships - representing who you know and how you know them, particularly celebrities. For men, it also includes marrying the perfect "trophy wife." Even sexual conquests are considered status symbols.
Status symbols are a form of communications. It's our attempt to try and tell others who we are and we're all probably guilty of using such symbols at different points in our lives. It gets a bit disturbing though when we become obsessed with status symbols, such as "Keeping up with the Jones'." In other words, it's not what you have accomplished in your life, but who you think you are.
I tend to call the status seekers the "ST Generation" as they are consumed with having the faSTest, oldeST, neweST, beST, biggeST, smalleST, and moST expensive or powerful. In other words, they measure their social status by things like volume, grade, size, frequency, and age.
Like anybody, I like nice things, but I can't say I'm easily impressed by status symbols anymore, as I tend to think they're impractical and costly. Maybe it's my Scotch blood showing. I tend to be more impressed by people whose actions speak louder than their symbols, such as finding a cure for a disease, an architect who designs a skyscraper, or the contractor who actually builds it. Looks may be important, but they can also be deceiving. As for me, I'll take actions and accomplishments over status symbols any day of the week. Like I said, what do you "win" with status symbols?
Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.
Keep the Faith!
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Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.