Last week I came across a book titled Status Anxiety written by the philosopher Alain de Botton. Since I don’t have time to read it right now I didn’t purchase it, but I was excited to discover that de Botton did a documentary on the subject and you can access it on YouTube. De Botton’s thesis is essentially this: for all the benefits associated with the modernist idea of meritocracy the possibility of social mobility has created a sort of anxiety unknown to previous generations. Since theoretically everyone in modern societies should be able to move up the social ladder “if one works hard enough” there is a depression associated with not doing so. De Botton notes that while we may not envy someone like Bill Gates for his accomplishments—because we see him as being a different, superior type of person—we do envy those we see as equals who do better than us. Anyone who is familiar with the idea of “keeping up with the Joneses” knows the gist of the idea.
I find that in the age of social media—where we can make our name known quickly whether via blogs, Twitter, YouTube, etc.—that this social anxiety is even more prevalent. As a Christian there is a very real struggle to fight against finding our worth in accomplishments and success as it is defined by the world around us. If you face this peace-stealing pressure to be a “success” then I recommend watching the documentary by de Botton or reading his book. I plan on reading it soon. If you’d prefer not to watch the longer documentary you can get the summarized version through this embedded video: