Time will be money
What’s your measure of a successful life? The big house in the best zip code? The latest Gucci handbag and Rolex Submariner? The brand-new Mercedes Coupé? Or is it maybe something else? Something less tangible, less material? If so, you’re part of a global shift in social currency – from high net worth to high experience. Hold on to your Prada hats – social status is going post-material.
Traditional status symbols have long been centered around material value and visibly measurable numbers. In the West, status has been all about conspicuous consumption. Making it in life has been defined by what you own – your net worth, your house, your possessions. And now China’s a fully-fledged superpower, there too luxury brands, designer wear, high-end sports cars, and even exotic animals are the new measures of social status.
But that’s all changing. The way we think about status, and what constitutes the best life we can lead, is shifting radically toward less tangible, more sharable experiences. That includes things like our knowledge and expertise, our social and digital connections, and our willingness to share experiences. Consumption thus becomes much less about what you have and much more about who you are.
That’s most evident in what we choose to do with our time. Already, time is our most valued asset. And we’re choosing to spend it productively – it’s a shift from conspicuous consumption to ‘conspicuous production’ where we prove our status by how much we work, create, and produce. Look at the rise of the freelance economy (Intuit estimates that by 2020, 43% of the U.S. workforce will be freelance) with many shunning corporate career paths in favor of a new model that emphasizes the value of an individual’s skills.
We want the world to know we’re spending our time well with the freedom to pursue creativity, wellness and new skills without financial pressure. Participants in luxury curated high-intensity training programs like SoulCycle wear the evidence of their grueling physical workouts like a badge of honor. And Millennial travelers are passing up sun-drenched Caribbean cruises in favor of thrill-seeking expeditions and the search for authentic experiences (that they post on Instagram). Keep an eye on time, the ultimate scare resource, being the ultimate modern status symbol.
At work, climbing the corporate ladder creates far less cachet than it once did. It’s no longer about what office you get or what your job title is. Rather, it’s about how much influence you have, how much content you create and share, and the number of followers and like-ratios you achieve. Companies like Brandwatch and Klout now routinely use social media to determine an individual’s level of influence. This year will be a pretty big year for influencers, a relatively new term in the scheme of things. Already we are seeing a rebirth of marketing, one that now uses these people to literally slang products and services. It’s kind of a big deal as direct-to-consumer starts to dominate.
Physical and mental well-being is another of our newly dominant status symbols. We shun certain stores for the local organic farmers’ market because we want to know and show we know what we’re doing to our bodies. We try to get the right amount of sleep because we know how harmful its absence can be. And we spend far more on schooling our children because we value the enriching power of knowledge and education.
The message is clear: when it comes to your social status, it’s time to ditch the meh shoulder bag, and get on board with the self-worth, not net-worth, economy.
 TechCruch; “Social Influence Startup PeerIndex Acquired by Brandwatch in Cash/Shares Deal;”