Status roles are at the core of who we are.
They change how we spend our time, our money and most of all, our imaginations.
I have been thinking about our social needs and have begun to test a hypothesis that we have two basic social needs:
a) Fit in to a tribe where we want to belong; and
b) Stand out, first by seeking ways to improve the tribe’s status and then by seeking ways to improve our status within the tribe by signaling our comparative virtue.
So, Katlego might be a disgruntled worker in finance who does not really feel a part of the tribe.
She might either look for opportunities to go work in a different department/tribe or may be contacted by a member of said tribe.
Let’s say she now has the opportunity to become an analyst at a venture capital firm.
After a year in her new job, Katlego’s first needs would be met.
Since venture capitalists are a relatively “high status” tribe, she may only seek to improve the status of her firm within the tribe.
Or, more likely, she might be focused on improving her brand within the community by signaling comparative virtue on Twitter [for example].
Of course, this does not just apply to jobs only.
People seek higher status by associating themselves with high status tribes and high status positions in those tribes.
We have created various kinds of tribes with nations, states, faiths, religions, and so on.
Celebrities strive to belong to high status celebrities tribe, attending high status events.
Even in churches, there are those who strive to belong to higher status tribe within a high status church.
Success is measured on how well your status bar is increasing.
People strive to have high status friends and associations because it increases your status worth.
We have even created tribes around sports teams. Most of these tribes ladder up to bigger tribes.
Your soccer team plays badly, you want to distance yourself from that team because it is behaving as a low status team, and you want to associate yourself with a team that will give you high status.
In politics, for example, we have different levels of tribes.
When things are going well for them, the people of a nation may unite under the larger national umbrella and revel in their collective high status.
When things are not going well, they will focus instead on improving the status of their local tribe and stop caring about the larger tribes they are part of.
Once we are part of a tribe, the goal is always achieving higher status.
So, if we feel secure about our status within a tribe and also feel secure about our tribe’s status, we can now get to work on improving our status within the tribe.
We define ourselves in relative terms, not absolute ones. More stuff, more power, less this or less that. Who’s up and who’s down? Who’s more smart?
This is game, a status game and the goal is to increase your status worth.
Know popular people, check in a at fancy places, take selfies with the King of Spain, attend VIP events, have the latest fancy gadgets, are all part of the status games we play every day.
The more visible we can play this status game, the better, especially when our status worth is gaining points.
Being an anonymous success is frowned up.
The winner is the one with more goals in a soccer game, so is the game of status, the “winner” is the one who “scores” more status points.
Since the goal is achieving higher status, we are always playing status games, whether we choose to outwardly signal status or not.
Choosing to not play status games is just a variant of playing the game.