Ego and Self Worth On The Internet

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I always find the definition of self-worth fascinating, especially in a town like Hoboken.

The definition of self worth is basically the way that a person perceives themself, their social standing (importance) amongst their peers, based on various factors. Some factors are tangible, and some are intangible. Some people could care less, but in a fucked up town like Hoboken, I notice that a lot of people get caught up in making themselves feel important.

Like, for example, money is a barometer for many people as their definition of self worth. The more money someone has, the more important they feel. They buy nice clothes, and feel better about themselves. They buy an expensive car or a beautiful home. Surrounding themselves with luxuries isn't merely for the pleasure of ownership, but the psychological impact of owning it. Why buy a Rolex when a Citizen tells the same time? Or when someone buys a wedding ring for their fiance, they want to spend as much as possible to say "THIS IS HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU?" or is it really "THIS IS HOW MUCH MONEY I MAKE AND LET ME SHOW OFF YOU AS MY PRIZE". Shallow? Of course. How many women do you really know that will forgo an expensive wedding ring, and use that money with their soon to be husband towards their first house?

Another example is a power. Working for the city may not pay as much as someone on Wall Street, but there are perks to being connected in Hoboken, and the bloated egos that go along with it. You don't have to be rich, look at a police officer as an example. How many perks do you think a cop has in their life? At the recent St. Patrick's Day Parade, I heard that an off-duty cop from another county flashed a badge at a bouncer, in order to get their friend, who was waiting in line, into a bar. Think about that. In that police officer's mind - they were a cop and had MORE AUTHORITY than "regular people" to bypass the rules. How often do you think a cop gets a free pass from other police officers on traffic tickets or if they are caught on other minor infractions? Or the police, while off duty, are given free rounds at his local pub by nervous owners who want to keep the police "on their side".

There's people who don't have money, and they don't have power, but they define their self worth by other factors, like intelligence:


  • "The Insider": There are various kinds of insiders, like the music insider, a cynical artsy emo-kid who knows every up-and-coming band on the music scene working at places like The Frozen Monkey, and feels superior to those "in the rat race". Or the political insider, who is privy to the "behind the scenes" world of politics and feels like his knowledge makes them more powerful. The "hipster insiders" are the people who go to Last Night's Party, hang out with Cobrasnake and are pals with MisShapes, sipping on their soy chai teas while looking at gawker.com.
  • "The Professor": Super intelligent, bookish smart people who pat themselves on the back with their hefty IQ, and education. Some may have money or power, and some may not. Either way, they pride themselves in being smarter than everyone else. Maybe they went to an Ivy League school and will put down people with quips like, "I bet Joe on Wall Street didn't get a job like me because of years of {enter schooling here}, but because his daddy is a Director at Goldman." There's plenty of Professors that didn't go to great schools, or even have great jobs, but thrive on the IDEA that they are smarter than everyone else and therefore their self-worth is intact.
  • "Street Smart Local Unionist": There's plenty of people out there who didn't get a great job, don't have a great education, mommy and daddy didn't get them a condo in Hoboken, and they don't have any city connections, but pride themselves on their street (or local) credibility. They sneer at the local yuppies, laugh at the Barry Bond HGH gym rats and don't know Gawker.com from GAP.com. They look at life like it's a war, and they have survived because of their quick thinking and scrappiness, working a job as an electrician, plumber, machinist, or construction - connected to other union types and other "organizations", if ya know what i'm gettin' at, cump.

Or maybe physical charms:


  • "Steroid Guy": Probably has one of those tribal tattoos around their big bicep, lifts 7 days a week, probably at one point claims to have played high-school or college sports. They look down on others because of their superior strength, showing off their six-pack to people and feeling better about themselves.
  • "The Beauty Queen": She's the ball of the dance who is working as a 1st grade kindergarten teacher or a secretary (oops, sorry, administrative assistant), who may or may not have a college education (even if she does, she really went to college to get a M.R.S. degree, but wouldn't admit that to anyone). She pride herself on her good looks, often reminding people about when she was a cheerleader or how many boyfriends she had in her youth. She feels superior even if she's not educated or has a good job, she knows she's better than YOU because she is (or was) pretty.
  • "The Stud": Similar to the Beauty Queen, except defines his self worth by his sexual prowess, and probably working a job in sales or is a struggling actor (while working as a waiter). He prides himself on his boyish charm, good looks and ability to always pick up a girl at the bar. He may not be making a tremendous amount of money, but he sure gets lots of attention from women, which he loves.

So now if you take the above into account first, then, in Hoboken, there exists a certain hierarchy amongst the locals, the Born and Raised (BnR). Basically it goes like this:

1. Do you live in Hoboken, own a home and pay residential taxes.
2. Do you work or own a business in Hoboken (and pay commericial taxes).
3. How many years you lived in Hoboken.
4. Do you and/or other members of your family work for the City of Hoboken (i.e. City Hall, police, firemen, etc).
5. Were you were born and raised in Hoboken.
6. The number of generations your family has lived Hoboken.

What's the point to everything I wrote? Why do an exercise in trying to understand ego and self-worth?

I just find it fascinating, for starters. I will readily admit that I certainly fit into some of the criteria described above, I certainly pride myself on a decent job, my fitness and the fact I own a home. I don't write this entry to somehow act like i'm above all this, i'm not. I'm a human being with human insecurities, ego and failings.

The point to writing it was nothing more than an exercise in understanding our self. Maybe you are reading this and thinking "Furey is writing about me!" - yes and no. I'm writing about me, what I see from online local message boards, hear people talk about in the bar or just observe.

Think about when an arguement starts on a message board (like Hoboken411 or Hobokenchat) or even behind friend's back in email flaming. What are the common ways that people puff up their chests and boast their self worth. I always read things boasting or put downs:

"I have more money."
"I have a better job."
"I lived in Hoboken longer."
"I have had more boyfriends/girlfriends/lovers."
"They are a fat slob."
"They are an ugly short troll."

Yadda yadda yadda.

I'm sure that Hoboken isn't unique. I'm sure the definition of self worth doesn't end when you leave Hoboken for the Land Of Suburbia...the definition of self worth probably transfers from self-worth to "Family Pride". Where your kids go to school, what grades they get, are they on student council or play a sport...it doesn't end.

3 Comments

The problem in Hoboken is simple - it's a fishbowl. Everyone has their clique that they run around with and therefore familiarity breeds insecurity.

While I'm certainly not above some of the things described in your post, I know I've gotten a lot less caught up in it than I was for a while.

For anyone who really does derive their self-worth from how other people perceive them, I recommend Paul A. Hauck "Overcoming the Ratings Game".

Oh, and I drive what I drive and wear the watch that I wear for me - If I "always wanted it" I feel obligated to go get it. :D

One other point - when the insults degrade down to physical only "He's bald or fat or whatever", all that means is that they can't really attack anything about who the person is, so you know that the person hurling them has lost that war.

My personal favorite on hobokeni was when posters who hadn't even met called each other short, fat or bald. Classic!

Really good entry, Furey. I'm always annoyed by music elitists who are constantly mentioning all the concerts they've seen, and ask questions like, "Oh, have you heard of the Zips? Oh, you haven't? Well they're pretty much the most awesome band ever. I saw them three times already at the (some bar I've never heard of) and the lead singer emailed me his tracks and they're on my iPod. I already filled up 3 iPods with great music, but you've probably never heard of it."

And, of course if they somehow happen to like some pop band, they sneer at the songs that made it big, and are only fans of "their earlier EPs (you've probably never heard of them anyway)".

--

Related to your main point, I think the deeper question is to why certain jerks bring this kind of stuff up in conversation in the first place. Sometimes talking about personal experience, knowledge, or wealth is relevant and appropriate. I guess in these cases it doesn't come across as annoying and attention-grasping behavior. Though, it seems like in this town (and other places) many people just "inflate" their position or rank in a group with this kind of frivolous junk. It's really irritating, and because of this they're usually the first type of person to get themselves excluded from a group of reasonable people. And of course, all of the excluded jerks make up all these little cliques.

Typical.

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This page contains a single entry by Furey published on March 10, 2008 12:15 AM.

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