Status Anxiety and What Happened at Virginia Tech Pt. 1


Status Anxiety and What Happened at Virginia Tech Pt. 1


<p>By now the mass media has inundated you with coverage of the Virginia Tech massacre, but I don&#39;t want to rehash the details of the event. I want to take a deeper look at a possible motive. Some people will argue about gun control, or the failure of the mental health community. While these are salient issues they miss what I gathered from the videos to be an overarching reason behind his rampage. He like many school gunman before him felt inferior to his peers. He turned this "status anxiety" inward until it manifested in a maniacal rampage.

Status Anxiety, I&#39;m pretty sure that the people living in <a href="">Rublyovo</a> know all about it. From what I&#39;ve heard Los Angeles is right up there too (I&#39;ll let you know this summer). Increasingly and unexpectedly another type of high status local has begun to emerge in previously quite towns like Bloomington, IN. That&#39;s right, university towns are working hard to be included in the same breathe as other high status locals. It used to be that college was a time when people ate ramen and being "poor" was rite of passage. Not anymore. I&#39;m sure that some students still have a tough time at college, but increasingly the term poor college kid is a joke. Youth and excess money make these towns the perfect starting place for status anxiety.

Before we go on lets give a quick explanation of status anxiety before I am labeled a communist and you quit reading. The basis of the problem can be summed up by William James&#39;s simple equation</p>
<p align="center" style="text-align: center;">Self Esteem =&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <u>Success </u><br />&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Expectations</p><p id="nq">The problem is that in our modern society expectations continue to rise at rates that are unattainable for most people. This creates a rise in levels of status anxiety which translates into a rise in levels of concern about importance, achievement, and income. What happens then is that self-esteem suffers. People feel anxious about their lives. They feel that life is not amounting to what they expected. In the worst case scenarios like the one at Virginia Tech people take out their frustrations on others who they perceive as having the success they so desire. One University of Kentucky student put it this way "I think the biggest pressure would probably be social. Being at the right bars or parties on the weekend and then for girls the right fashion, outside the sorority I guess it would probably be the same."

These feelings are all part of a trend that has been going on for some time now. One author Alain de Botton in his book titled <em>Status Anxiety </em>identifies the ignominious nature of this problem. He notes that the sharp decline in actual deprivation found in many western societies paradoxically increases the sense of deprivation and fear of it. Even in America a nation blessed with riches and possibilities far beyond those imaginable to our ancestors we continue to believe that nothing is ever enough.

Now you might being say to yourself I have no desire to be Donald Trump, but what if one of your closest friends got rich. Take for example this weeks episode of the HBO uberstatus series <a href="">Entourage.</a> In the episode Ari (rich Hollywood agent) has an old friend come for a visit. He believes that his old frat buddy is managing a Hooters somewhere back east. When he finds out that he made 65 million dollars from and got a beautiful young fiance he gets jealous. Botton makes note of this psychological phenomenon that sees us comparing ourselves mostly to our closest friends our "reference group". It is their relative successes that creates the most status anxiety.

In Part 2 tomorrow we look more closely a Bottons reasons for how we got here and how we can break free from our status anxiety. <span class="sizeGreater20">Pt. 2 Tomorrow (<a href="" target="_blank">Click Here</a>)</span>

Posted on Wednesday, May 2, 2007 at 12:26AM by <a href="">AJ Meyer</a>


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AJ Meyer, “Status Anxiety and What Happened at Virginia Tech Pt. 1,” The April 16 Archive, accessed May 19, 2024,