“I don’t trust anybody who drops a whole lot of names… Usually they’re fringe.” –Ed Dwyer, columnist
Grew up in a culture where bragging about oneself was discouraged. It is considered uncouth and narcissistic to ramble on about one’s accomplishments (whether true or not) and to namedrop, that is to mention the name of a prominent figure and build some type of connection to that person.
While amongst friends at some random bar, the moment somebody blatantly namedrops, the side-eyes begin, acknowledging somebody is trying to grab the attention – somebody needs that pick-me-up, declaring, “Look who I know!”
After leaving New York City and acclimating to a new culture in Bacolod City, witnessed so many people indulging in namedropping. In any conversation, somebody will mention they know the owner of a certain place or they talked with this prominent individual.
Entering the media field, have found even more individuals love to brag about meeting or knowing this person or another. Sometimes it is mentioned even if there is no context to it – for the sole purpose of boasting. Others like to give familial titles to prominent individuals, as a way of informing the people they are speaking with, “See how close I am to this person?”
There seems to be this competition about who is the best-known person. Yet, when you take a step back and away from the façade, with as many times people may say “it’s a small world,” just like most residents throughout the city or province, they are average individuals – regardless of last name.
Personally, am perfectly content being an unknown face in the crowd; as long as there is food on the table and a place to call home, life is fine. Yet, there seem to be so many people that have this compulsion to assert themselves, to let other people know just how important they are (or think they are).
There was an ongoing meme after the Cleveland Cavaliers, led by star player Lebron James, lost to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA finals. With the numerous pundits claiming James being the best ever, even the player himself making the same assertion, many responded with Michael Jordan’s superior NBA finals record and noting, Jorden never called himself “the best ever” – everybody else did.
It goes to show, outside the country, when people talk themselves up and portray a certain image, others are more than willing to put them back in their place.
In a February 2017 article on the news website Quartz, Leah Fessler discussed the subject of “Why namedropping basically always backfires.”
She explained, namedropping, essentially, originated as “an easy way to signal our status as a member of an exclusive in-group;” citing University of Georgia Psychology Professor W. Keith Campbell, who said, “An individual can look good to others and boost his or her own self-esteem by associating with powerful people.”
He went on to describe these individuals as “narcissistic.”
The article also cites organizational psychologist Liane Davey, who said, “Namedropping usually comes from a person who is uncomfortable, anxious, and doubting their own contribution to the situation.”
Davey went on to say, “Name dropping is absolutely terrible for our credibility,” explaining those listening are more than likely to see through the game. “Interjecting another person’s name is distracting, and it also leaves the listener questioning why you’re so hesitant to just talk about yourself,” she noted.
In terms of those who try to convey their closeness to prominent individuals, the psychologist explained, “When someone namedrops to assert their closeness to a powerful person, they’re perceived both as less competent and as manipulative.”
Cari Romm wrote a similar piece for New York Magazine, where she also quotes the Fessler article, calling namedropping “the most awkward networking mistake you can make.”
She discussed the risk involved with namedropping, writing, “You’re banking on the fact that whomever you’re talking to will be impressed by the name you drop, but your conversation partner could just as easily think that person is a jerk, or an idiot, or just straight-up have no idea who they are.” The huge cultural difference is, as it appears, more local residents are the former – and even being unfamiliar with the mentioned name, would still make assumptions of grandeur.
Romm suggests, “Stick to what you have to offer, regardless of who you know – or, even better, don’t make it about you at all: the kind of networking that feels less slimy and keeps you on safe ground.”
Lauren Martin wrote a piece for online news platform Elite Daily entitled, “10 reasons why namedroppers are the worst people on planet Earth.”
She struck a home run with one of the points, noting:
“They are the Instagram of people – all filters… It’s all Hudson, Mayfair, and Inkwell with them; they love the black and white and opaque covers to hide their unimpressive original selves.”
Martin also noted, the character trait speaks to their inability to remain loyal.
“They are faithful to themselves and the game only,” she wrote. “They will burn bridges as fast as they cross them and drop you in the water on the way across.”
A lot of the points brought up are very apparent and among the many reasons why namedropping is not as impressive as the perpetrators would like to believe it is. However, it is still unclear why locally, namedropping is often countered with more namedropping, why the competition? It’s a veritable race to the bottom.
Liz Brody wrote a piece on the subject back in 1995 for the Los Angeles Times, where she spoke with a casting director who said the act is often used as “intimidation.” She went on to explain the tactic is only effective with “people who aren’t that sure of themselves and are looking for acceptability.”
The article also quotes columnist Ed Dwyer, who pretty much nailed it on the head.
“I don’t trust anybody who drops a whole lot of names,” he said. “Usually they’re fringe.”/WDJ