In today’s world, everyone wants to be envied, says James Marriott in The Times. Calling someone “enviable” is considered a compliment. We talk about our glitzy holidays, expensive purchases and picture-perfect children “as loudly as we can”. Online, we no longer communicate so much as “advertise at each other as PR agents for our personal brands”. And we do all this to make our friends, family and colleagues envious. The cocktails, the cars, the expensive clothes. They don’t just show that we’re having a great time – they “prove our superiority”. Envy has, somehow, become the predominant “social emotion” of our time.
But on social media, “the envious can have their revenge”. For my money, much of the “moral fury” that drives cancel culture is rooted in envy as much as in politics. Most people don’t really care about the issues they say upset them – they just want to bring more successful people down a peg or two. What exacerbates this is the fact that social media puts everyone on the same level. Back in the day, celebrities were seen only via the “exotic means of newspapers, radio and television”; now they have regular old Twitter and Instagram like the rest of us. So be careful before posting that next glamorous life update on social media. Being envied may be a mark of success – but it also puts a target on your back.