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March 10, 2008

Ego and Self Worth On The Internet

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:

Or maybe physical charms:

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.

Posted by Furey at March 10, 2008 12:15 AM


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

Posted by: mel Author Profile Page at March 11, 2008 10:15 AM

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!

Posted by: mel Author Profile Page at March 11, 2008 10:18 AM

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.


Posted by: Kevin McCormick Author Profile Page at March 11, 2008 4:32 PM

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