How Micro-Communities Transform Aspiration
In the modern aspiration economy, status looks a lot like a quarantine
When disgraced Russian oligarchs make a hasty exit out of their country, they are often forced to leave their private planes behind. In a uniquely Russian entrepreneurial twist, these grounded Gulfstream G650 jets then became a coveted backdrop for Instagram photo sessions. The Moscow-based Private Jet Studio offers sanctioned jets rentals for two-hour photoshoots with a personal photographer for $191. Private Jet Studio’s Instagram features women in lingerie casually hanging out at the plane entrance (as one does), dreamily staring through the window (looking at the tarmac), or casually reading newspapers. Some are even sleeping, which, given the 2 hour rental limit, seems like a giant waste.
Renting a grounded private jet for the sole purpose of sharing images on Instagram is peak status affordance. It allows sharing the external codes of an aspirational lifestyle, minus the actual lifestyle itself. No matter, main purpose is to accumulate a social following, likes, and to maintain an online persona, in hopes that this social capital can be monetized.
Veblen described how aspirants mimic affluents in their habits. Trends start among the upper class and then trickle down. The modern aspiration economy is not only about the reversal of this trend, but about its erasure.
Once aspiration moved into the domain of intangibles, it became invisible. How does one register “elevating the world’s consciousness”? More from the WeWork files, Adam Neumann’s wife allegedly requested for an employee to be fired because she didn’t like their “energy.” In the modern aspirants’ world, where a person’s “energy” is something to be invested in, nurtured, regularly checked upon, and evolved, this makes a perfect sense.
As aspiration, invisibility is different than dressing down or downright shabbily that’s has historically been exhibited by the British Upper class. A lack of concern for one’s clothes and appearance and for “what people think” is still social signaling, and conveys confidence in one’s social standing and is expression of privilege of not caring.