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Asserting Your Social Status With Your Facebook Status

Social competition is and will always be the central preoccupation of the country club set. It wasn’t so long ago that that unending game of casual one-upmanship was waged over canapés and cocktails, but the arena has changed: Now that everyone from Tinsley Mortimer to Lydia Hearst is on Facebook, Status Updates are the best way to assert your status. It’s not enough to share your most recent trip to Ibiza with a few of your clubby friends at the Rose Bar — it must be broadcast to hundreds of acquaintances (or in Peter Davis’s case, 5,001). The game’s still the same old Keeping Up With the Joneses — but now it’s weirder, more impersonal, and each word much be chosen carefully.

There are five key rules to using your status update to maximum status-signifying effect. Learn from the masters.

1. CAREFULLY NAME-DROP


In status updates, proper nouns are catchy — they lend an air of credibility and gravitas. But names must be dropped carefully! Give away too much, and you’re a braggart with no respect for personal privacy (“I’m having dinner with Anna Wintour!” How gauche). Give away too little, and it’s pointless (“I’m having dinner with a friend!” Great, so you have at least one friend). Here our updater thus utilizes the range of name-dropping from the overt to the obscure. Initially she lures us by dropping “Elaine’s,” the famously intellectual restaurant. Then she baffles us with the vague character BJF, a three-named hint of a man left mysterious. Finally she injects an easily solvable enigma for those interested enough to Google “June 16 Daily Show guest.” (Tom Folsom.) Expertly played, though perhaps we didn’t need it tied together for us at the end. Let your status speak for itself, darling!



In this case we’re met with the inscrutable acronym DA — discretion that veers into uselessness — but we are at least assured that the meeting is a “reunion,” which suggests that the moment will be charged with an enviable energy. And it will take place at Hotel Griffou, the new Beatrice Inn of the West Village. Whatever this mysterious reunion is, it will be fabulous.


2. UNDERSHARE FABULOUSNESS



Facebook status updates are like playful mind burps of the psyche meant to be shed with the same nonchalance as shoes at a threshold. Though you would be wise to merely spit out an update, the update’s very efficacy rests on the premise that it is an undercrafted ejaculation. Try too hard, and you will fall flat. Nevertheless, you must at least hint at your glamorous reality. Here our updater expertly teases with a beautiful if apocryphal photo. She leaves it to us to inquire under what circumstances it’s taken. Then, in the inevitable reveal, she closes in on the kill, casually revealing she was (a) in the Hamptons, and (b) with a man named Rufus (see rule No. 1).



In one word and three syllables, this updater communicates that she is in some sort of relationship with Nantucket — probably summering there, but it's left coyly unclear — and that she is sufficiently jaded by the island rat race. If only all writers could be as succinct and elliptical. She's the William Carlos Williams of updates.


3. COMPLAIN



Your life is worthy of envy, but it is not perfect — otherwise everyone would hate you, and we can’t have that. And so the fabulous undershare must strike a counterbalance, and the results can be fantastic. This updater’s status, nominally a complaint about a nasty hangover, is really a subterranean boast that (a) the updater has a Dionysian appreciation for the high life, (b) has rather limitless supplies of Rose [sic] wine, and (c) is in Ibiza.



Nothing stinks more than having a DVD collection made up solely of Criterion editions of French New Wave directors except, perhaps, being torn between your loyalty to art and your desire to watch Bill Murray in a onesie. You’re highbrow but love the lowbrow — you are the kind of person everyone wants to be friends with.


4. SELF-AGGRANDIZE VIA SELF-DEPRECATION



Your personal glories should be wrapped in the leaky sackcloth of self-deprecation. As we’ve mentioned, bragging is unacceptable. But when you simply happen to leak that you have a maid in the course of revealing a funny anecdote — you’re illiterate, ha! — you’ve broadcast your fabulousness without the incriminating prints of arrogance.



Here our updater plays coy with self-awareness, melding Complaint (Rule No. 3) with self-deprecation. With such a flimsy excuse to return to the Hamptons, this is the This is Spinal Tap of Facebook updates, a symbiotic system of ridiculousness, in both awareness of said ridiculousness and beneath that ridiculousness. Most likely written from the Jitney.


5. PROJECT



Taking a cue from Shakespeare’s King Lear, another avenue of the indirect boast is putting the goods in the mouths of fools, or in this case, foreigners. Our updater’s status would be diminished if it had read only “beautiful shorts,” but when it’s a strange foreign man who says it, we also have an opportunity for complaint (see rule No. 3).



By placing her bragging in the lying mouth of a subway stranger, this updater covertly asserts the prestige of her position and at the same time insulates herself against similar claims. Particularly masterful is the covert assumption here that her position is one sufficiently grand to be the ethereal stuff of A train boasting. [Note: She’s also listed on the masthead as a contributing writer.]

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