Why do we have status symbols ? - Thoughts over thoughts

in #science4 years ago (edited)

Is it necessary for us, to show other people what we have? If we are thinking about status symbols, the first thing many of us have in mind is money. Expensive cars, luxury watches, limited sneakers, the newest cellphone or a big yacht. Did you ever asked yourself, why people have the need to show off their liquidity? Are there reasons in our society or nature? Today I want to give some possibiltys why status symbols play an important role in our lifes.

What is a status symbol?

Several definitions are out there, but in general a status symbol is an object or a perceived visible trade, which reflects the social or economic status. A status symbol doesn't have to necessarily be an object, as there are several symbols which aren't really a materielle size. Education, fame, a title or connections to influencial people can be seen as such non-material status symbols. A status symbol can also be negativly connoted in a social context, because we consider a person with expensive clothes wealthy, but the clothes of poor people also determine their social status, so they are status symbols too. Our understanding is often connected to prestige objects like the one below:

illegally hunted ivory from elephants - a material as a status symbol in China

Status symbols are versatile

As we have seen, different cultures and societys have different values. Whereas wikings were respected if they had scars from won battles, commercial societys define the status based on goods people can buy through wealth. Between academic and intellectual people, publishing many publications or the ability to think in an educated way can be representative of the status in this specific group. In the time of a war, a uniform can also be seen as a status symbol, because soldiers gain reputation fighting for the homeland. A prosperity belly was a status symbol in the middle age, whereas today, many people find an athletic body attractive. Another point are achievements like trophys or certificates, a direct product of the comparrison between an individual and other humans. Athletes that won a worldchampionship are credited and often feared by opponents in a contest. The status of a high level athlete, has an impact of how people see each other.

cars can be seen as status symbols - a person with a sports car is likely to be more waelthy as a person who owns an old, damaged vehicle

The role of status symbols 

Status symbols aren't a phenomen of mankind. The need of stats symbols in nature is omnipresent. We can see the tail  structures of melanin and keratin of a peacock as a status symbol. For potentional sexual partners it is a ornament, a direct indicator for the genetical "fitness" of the animal. The handicap principle is decisively for this effect. The tail won't make the peacock faster or boost his flight abilty. This hypotheis states, a reliable signal have to be costly for the signaler. The traits the peacock has may be a handicap, but functions like conspicious consumption. Animals that aren't able to produce such signals implicate that they can't afford this waste of abilitys and if they are able to, a waste leads to the conclusion the animal has more than enough of something (e.g. strength), so it attracts partners. Even with the handicap it is able to survive the contest in the species and assoo against other kinds of animals, because of a high fitness (attractive -> fights between animals for a partner, the stronger one get's him/her)

the beautiful tail of a peacock consisting of feathers from 1 to 1.5 meters length

Fitness is also an status symbol in modern societys. The quality of our genes, displayed by the phenotype, have an impact on how attractive we are for other people. Education, skills and beauty are considered as attractive, because they stand for good genes and as the human species tries to bring good progeny's on the earth.

Status symbols like the crown and ceptar of a king represent dominance. We use the symbolic of objects to show off our superiority. Society provides us many advantages. In earlier days, the aspect of surving was a leading factor to pair groups of individuals up. Harmonious and peaceful exchange of informations, goods... between the members of the society increase it's effectiveness and the profits gained from it increase. So, think about it. One reason we formed societys/civilisations was to survive. An egoistic view, as we cared first of our own life and the direct result was protecting the others to be more protected, not because we liked them so much and wanted them to survive, but keeping us alive. Thats not even meant to be bad, it is just how a human body works. Here comes the big but: Egoistic views can lead to dictators or in a less extreme scenario to the presentation  of force. Thirst for power can result from the wish to change the existing forms to a construction of thoughts of an individuum. Gaining followers, the rank as a dictator works as a status symbol too. In this specific case it is less prestige, but force which wants to get shown-off. Fear, obedience and oppresion. Terms, the status of the dictator is defined by from the victims of the regime.

crown and sceptre - the status symbols of a ruler

Does a status symbol attract everyone?

Definitly not. Different communitys have different ideals. Imagine a gang with tattoos, reflecting your status in the gang. If you have a tattoo of a leader, the other gang members will respect you. People from outside the gang may recognise the tattoo and see it as a status symbol of a gang and as a result, you have a lower status for them, beeing assocciated with crime. The same counts for expensive cars. Some woman/man are attracted by materialistic status symbols, but on the other hand, some see it as boasting.


Status symbols. No matter in form of a trophy, a position in a community, expensive clothes... Thinking about our own life we can find at least one thing we can consider as a status symbol, even if we don't see it as one. Maybe we own a expensive car because we just like it's performance and power, but in fact, it gives information about the owner's wealth,  so it is a symbol for his/her wealth. Psychological and biological these symbols seem to be part of nature, as they can be attractive for potential partners, while on the other hand, they can also quench people if they are connotaed with a negative social status. We shouldn't only look at the status symbols, but the person behind them, to see how far the symbol equals the reality of the owner's life. A person is more complex than a simple status symbol, so don't jump into conclusions too fast.

Thanks for reading 

Have a nice day :)

https://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statussymbol (translated)



Thanks :)

This really made me think, very interesting and all put together, are you a professional writer? I will be following to see what else you put out, thanks friend.

Good to hear that it was interesting for you :) Haha no I'm still a student... just doing it besides school :D I'm currently trying this out as a new format about thougths I get during the day and which I want to take a closer look at. I think in the future you can see some topics like science, philosophy, economics, psychology, health... well, whatever is in my mind. Hope you enjoy some of my future posts aswell @embomb701

Well anything you put out on topics such as these I will be sure to enjoy friend. Thanks for putting so much thought into your writing and I look forward to the next one.

Nicely presented and thought provoking. So many who have power only have it because we gift it to them through our own envy or insecurity. A diamond only has value if we cover it. To the person who has risen above such superficial cravings, it is less valuable. Think of the value of things in an apocalypse... Do movie stars or trinkets measure up to loyal friends and sustenance? A great post!

Thanks :) Yes, you are right. The value of a diamond is created because it is a rare material (even if we can already reproduce it synthetical), but who would care about a diamond in a time of an apocalypse? Really, I would love to get a diamond if you would offer me one, but in fact, I wouldn't change it for friends, knowledge or my health. I would consider between the personal value I had to give and the value it has for society, which it will give back to me. What I'm trying to say is, in the apocalypse, we are kind of set back in time, when it was only important to survive and get food. Our evolution lead us to where we are today. Rare materials were always powerful like the gifts settlers gave to natives, which weren't worth much for them, compared to the land they get, but for the natives they had a big worth as they hadn't got them. How often do we lose something valuable to smth we consider as more valuable? Looking at teenagers who replace their real friends to hang out with the "cooler" ones. They offer you popularity (material) but take you your land (real friends). I don't want to be the native who get's manipulated by the goods people consider to have a great value, but rather the one who keeps his land -> modern time: loss of friends for a big company: I would love to have a work in a high position of a company, but I wouldn't give my life for it as money isn't everything for me, so I see the value of money different as a person who spends his life on a job he/she hates, but does it just to earn much money. One day we will wake up and see, money won't give us anything but the ability to change it for goods. It can't buy you loyal friends...and that comes from me, a person spending hours to earn some extra money on steemit. Man I could hang up on this topic :D Gave me some inspiration for a post in the future about how we define value. Again, thanks for sharing you opinion @drwillwho

I have a prosperity belly. If only it meant I was prosperous.

Good one :DD


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