Are you concerned about the delocalization of status?

See original post and follow up discussion on /r/slatestarcodex here

One of the realities about our globalized hyper-connected world is that no matter how high in status you are, there is another group very visible to you just above your level.

This is a change. Previously, if you were the big shot in your small town, your smaller country, in your company, in your friend group, or at your private golf course; you felt great about your position and didn’t yearn for more.

I am increasingly worried about the impact this having on people’s wellbeing and our society.

I remember reading about Jho Low and the 1MDB scandal and being most surprised at how many people genuinely wanted to be his friend.

As our own /u/mattlakeman wrote: “Leonardo Dicaprio, Paris Hilton, Alicia Keyes, Jamie Foxx, Busta Rymes, and Miranda Kerr are all characters in the book. All were “friends” who were paid to hang out with Low, and apparently did so quite a bit, especially Dicaprio, who in a bit of supreme happenstance, got Low to almost single-handedly finance the movie, The Wolf of Wall Street. Later on, Miranda Kerr started seriously dating Low, despite she being a 10/10 stunner making millions of dollars per year as a super model, and Low being a short, pudgy Asian dude, who by all accounts was awkward with women (models at parties were often paid extraordinary fees by Low and then were shocked when he didn’t hit on them).”

Why did high status beautiful and famous people like Leonardo Dicaprio and Miranda Kerr want to hang out with/date Low? Because even though they were very rich and successful, they yearned to be more powerful and viewed Low as their ticket to that life.

There is a similar trend I’ve noticed with politicians in my home country of Canada. In the not too distant past, after leaving local office, high level politicians would more or less move to a lake in cottage country and live a quiet life. Now, it is very common to pursue the international consulting circuit and use one’s former political office as a platform for becoming wealthy and part of the elite.

This is particularly problematic because it incentivizes politicians to act differently in office to preserve their after-office reputation/work opportunities. It also incentivizes a different type of person to pursue politics.

I live in Canada, where salaries are significantly lower than they are in the United States for industries like tech and law. It is a standard topic of conversation here to talk about how great it would be to work in big tech/law in the USA and make 2-4X the salary.

This leads to two challenges (and to make this more generalizable): 1) lots of people leave their lesser cities/countries to work in NYC/SF/USA, de-populating many places of talented people and depriving those communities of what would otherwise be their localized elite, and 2) those who stay feel much worse about their current job/life because in comparison to what they are hearing about, they no longer feel like a big shot.

In the early days of social media, you were inundated with information about the coolest/most interesting people in your immediate local environment. As social media evolved, we are no longer interacting with people slightly more popular than us down the road, but the biggest stars in the micro-community we participate in.

Sure you may have thought it was cool that you went on a 2 week hiking trip, but how does that stack up to all those who hiked the Pacific Crest Trail. Sure you hiked the Pacific Crest Trail, but how does that stack up to those who hiked the triple crown?

How special do you feel with your picture at Machu Picchu when everyone else has one.

Sure you have a nice niche nerd blog, but how does it stack up to literally every single Substack written by the best writers in the world?

This applies for nearly any hobby now.

People around you also seem a lot less interesting because of how easily it is to interact with more like-minded and impressive people online. Many people have also gravitated towards parasocial relationships with internet influencers rather than be engaged in their local community.

Do you really need to make new friends with the people in your local running group when you can just watch 50 hours of content from that really cooler running vlogger?

Do you really want to try and engage your friends into esoteric abstract discussions about topics they don’t really have an interest in when you can instead raise it on /r/slatestarcodex?

In the very general sense, I believe humans are very driven by a desire to increase status. In the past, we weren’t anymore stoic but we simply were exposed to a lot less, enabling us to feel satiated with our status desires. By being exposed to so much more now, it seems this has led to a dynamic where people feel less adequate, engage in their local environments less and lead to a greater sorting in society.

If you agree with this observation, do you find it concerning?