We like to think we have moved on from the age of snobbery. Judging others by birth or status, or at least being seen to, is the height of rudeness, and just not very cool.
But English snobbery is in fact as potent as before — and possibly even more insidious. Among my age group of twentysomethings, it is rife. Our elders might think of us as fiercely egalitarian, and in some ways that’s true. We aren’t as obviously obsessed with class. But we’ve found sneakier ways of being snobs.
It starts with social media. Everyone has an online profile, and that has created a new generation of ultra snobs, who lurk behind their phones watching their peers, noting subtle differences. I do it and I know many of my friends do too.
Instagram, the photosharing service, is the modern snob’s favourite platform. You don’t have to tell people how smart you are; you can show them. Instasnobs can tag their location, so that followers can look up which country estate they spent the weekend on. They can also type notable names into the captions underneath their snaps, in case followers don’t appreciate who they know: ‘OMG @emwoodhouse you look amazing.’
There is Instasnobbery and inverse Instasnobbery, and you see masses of both in all the Instatribes posting pictures of themselves. The cool festival-going blondes with faces full of glitter are signalling how free and easy they are compared to the neurotic earth mothers. The bearded flâneurs are differentiating themselves from the fusty artists. The literary hipsters show that they are friendly with, but not the same as, their aristo peers. Everyone jostles to reveal who they know, where they go, what they do. The real sophisticate trick is to do all that and then declare, on social media, that you have had enough of social media.