Conspicuous consumption is the spending of money on and the acquiring of luxury goods and services to publicly display economic power — either the buyer’s income or the buyer’s accumulated wealth. Sociologically, to the conspicuous consumer, such a public display of discretionary economic power is a means either of attaining or of maintaining a given social status.
I’ve been reading up on The Theory of The Leisure Class and the concepts of conspicuous or invidious consumption by Thorstein Veblen. Just as the Internet has amplified other systems, flows, and experiences, conspicuous consumption is heightened with apps like Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. If not items or goods that are bragged about, it’s vacations and trips to the gym/golf course and other leisure activities — perhaps building and flying a plane.
1) It might be that “conspicuous likes” is enough – the act of liking something on Facebook or the act of pinning an object. Can you really afford that Aston Martin Vanquish? But it’s certainly easy to like and that might be enough. These days you might not actually need to purchase or consume anything if you want to impress your friends or gain status. You just need to like it. It’s your taste that matters and will move you up and down on the so-called social ladder, wherever you seem to have placed it.
2) It also seems that the ultimate “conspicuous consumption” is your health status and athletic endeavors. In the Theory of the Leisure Class, Veblen writes “success as an athlete presumes not only a waste of time, but also a waste of money as well as the possession of certain highly unindustrial archaic traits of character and temperament.” Well, that’s Ironman training, ultramarathons, triathlons, and other ultra endurance events in a nutshell. With the motto “2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, 26.2 mile marathon, brag for the rest of your life”, that’s about inconspicuous as you can get. This is also what you eat, how skinny you are (really how healthy/strong you are), workouts for the day, if you’re disease free or overcame an illness, and how mentally strong you are.
Of course people shouldn’t be made to feel guilty about being healthy and striving for lofty fitness goals. But they should be aware that pursuit of these physical feats puts them at the very top of the leisure class society. Or, you could just “like” events like a marathon, Ironman race, cross fit challenge, etc instead of actually trying to do them. Might just be enough if all you want to do is impress your friends.