Why Stories Are the New Social Capital

We’ll Never Be Royals – Disregard Materialism, Acquire #SocialCapital

If you’re like me, you’re probably not going to be featured on Rich Kids of Instagram poppin bottles of Dom for breakfast or riding fancy whips and ships. As a non-member of the the richest .01% in the world, I can only live vicariously through their Instagram filters…it’s like Lorde said,

“And we’ll never be royals (royals).
It don’t run in our blood,
That kind of luxe just ain’t for us.
We crave a different kind of buzz.”

But that doesn’t mean we can’t amass Social Capital, which I will define as the amount of genuine relationships you share with others. Social Capital is not quantified by the number of Facebook friends or Twitter followers you have, but rather by the number of meaningful experiences you exchange with others.

Growing up, this concept was always subconsciously lurking at the edge of my mind, but I never realized it. Let me share two anecdotes:

  1. In high school I wanted to stand out — to impress my friends the only way a high schooler knew how to — with the hippest of sneakers. Near the end of my senior year, as I was skimming the generic “H.A.G.S” and scanning furiously for comments from crushes in my yearbook, my eyes stalled upon seeing the following comment: “Don’t be too materialistic, you should focus on experiences.” I was astonished. (Steven Chen, if you’re reading this, I hope you’re kicking ass at Harvard Law and I hope to catch up with you at our reunion).
  2. With a coveted summer internship in private banking, I was en route to become part of the 1%. But on this particular day (a Thursday), as I was slaving over market research, I overheard a casual conversation my MD was having with an elderly client. This man had money for lifetimes, but was vigorously distraught because his children were fighting over the zeroes in his bank account. Was the world so jaded that siblings must battle each other — for Maseratis, dinners at Nobu, and extended stays in the Hamptons? —Where was the love?

In one of my favorite plays, Death of a Salesman, Willy Loman exclaims:

“Be liked and you will never want.”

And he’s 100% right. The concept of Social Capital and need for meaningful experiences has become even more present (and sometimes overbearing) post-graduation, when most of your friends are in different cities and your Saturday nights include the option of cozying up to Netflix with a bottle of pinot (not that that’s a bad thing).

The game has changed.

In the real world, you are as strong as your social circle. How many of your friends, who if you call right now, will drop what they’re doing and hang out with you? Nobody can survive on their own.

Recently, I stumbled upon a fantastic post by Matt Monahan where this line stood out:

“Entertaining people is indispensable. Stories are the new currency…And no matter how much money you have, you can always rest easy knowing friends will have you over, serve you dinner, and sit down on a couch to listen to your stories.”

If stories are the new currency, then a genuine relationship is the new economy. When friends get together, they always reminisce and recount stories about experiences past while looking forward to the next one.


I know my definition is not perfect and I definitely do not have all the answers, but I want to further explore what social capital means and how to amass it. I want to learn from the masters, study the schools of thought in social capital and how to build a lifestyle around it. I want to invest in myself and see real ROI.

Today, I am kicking off this journey and plan on updating with insights I learn along the way. I know there are those of you far further down this path than I am, and I would like to invite you to share your thoughts and experiences. And for those in the same spot I am, would you care to join me?

So let’s make a pledge: Let’s stop chasing paper and start building more genuine relationships. Let’s aim for the experiential and not the material. Let’s work together to amass #SocialCapital.

Title Photo credit: flickr
Photo Credit: flickr