Thursday 5 December 2019

Out there: One-upmanship is a pain in the butt

Aine O'Connor

From early days, we define ourselves publicly. Our clothes, our allegiances, our accents, vocabulary, hobbies – they all act like the chalk lines around our living bodies. It's normal and natural, up to a point. We all fall into some kind of type. There are the glam types, the achiever types, the mammy types, the people reading this thinking "I'm not a type" types.

It can be organic, as in people are just a product of their environment and don't seek to change that, or much more deliberate. Some people work really hard to manipulate how others see them.

It would be easy to believe that this is a modern phenomenon, born of the chance to pout into a camera phone and post it online. But recently I was reminded of one of the forerunners of extreme social media self-definition – name-dropping.

Name-droppers are like the Hansel and Gretel of self-definition, leaving a trail of references to well-known people to define how they want to be seen. It's never "someone" who told them something, or "a friend" who they were with, it's always a named celebrity, sometimes of tragically minor proportions.

Don't get me wrong, if George Clooney recommended a brand of washing powder to me, I would mention it shamelessly and endlessly. If I smacked into Meryl Streep in Nutgrove, I'd be telling you.

But, largely, because it would be just a little out of my ordinary. It's the pretence that 'everyone else's celebrity is my ordinary' that is so tedious.

It's like people who only ever tell stories where they come out of it well. Or who post photos of their bums. It's the one-upmanship that rankles.

They feel good by making themselves feel better than others. Why not feel quietly superior? Why not sit at home privately mulling on your fabbiness? I find it helps to remember that everyone who needs to be publicly better than others, richer, prettier, thinner, cleverer, knows more celebs-er, is essentially the same. They're all doing some version of posting a photo of their bum.

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