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, Jane might be a disgruntled worker in finance who does not really feel a part of the tribe.
She might either seek opportunities to go work in a different tribe or may be contacted by a member of said tribe to join them.
Let’s say she now has the opportunity to become an analyst at a venture capital firm.
After a year in her new job, Jane’s first status need 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 status brand within the community by signaling comparative virtue on Twitter [for example].
So here is the short thesis:
I want to be part of an elite social group, once I’m part of it, my next task is to go higher in that group. Seeking a status within the status. and signalling in the process.
Of course, this does not just apply to jobs.
Man United, Chelsea, Barcelona etc are examples of status games. I choose to support a team that elevates my status, and when that teams wins, my status is elevated to higher than those around me who don’t support my team.
We have created various kinds of tribes with nations, states, faiths, religions, and so on.
It’s not enough that you have achieve status, signaling is equally important.
So, for example, we have different levels of tribes when we consider politics.
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, 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.
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.
Ultimately status symbols are medals you buy yourself.