Everywhere is a Shithole

Spend long enough on social media and you’ll come across the person who has a location in their bio, ‘Cheshire / MCR’. These people wear where they live like a badge of honour. And it’s always struck me as odd.

Look, as a throat clearing, I understand there is a practical element to this. Letting people know where you are physically on the globe has its uses. Similarly, some people are genuinely proud and have a deep love of where they are from. It’s not this I take issue with. It’s the instance where it smells of trying to advertise something about the person. Like most things on social media, it’s inevitably a form of bragging or personal branding.

It feels as if the people who engage in this form of bio-signposting want where they live to say something important about who they are, as if it is an immutable part of them, or adds to some mystique about them. There’s a credibility or appeal they are trying to loan from geography. The place is supposed to make up for something they are not. You’ll even see people smudge where they live to improve their image. Milton Keynes becomes the ‘Bucks/Bedford border’.

Let’s be clear – where you live is rarely a personality attribute. For most people on this planet, it’s pure luck, a birth lottery. And most people don’t have the fortune to be able to change it. You are not Carrie, and New York isn’t a metaphor for your life. Just because you live in Dalston does not mean you are interesting.

For me this kind of display often conveys another meaning than the one intended. It’s like the person who puts a Scorpio icon in their bio and thinks they are telling people “I’m determined, brave and [insert generic characteristic that can be applied to anyone]”. What they are actually saying is that they are the sort of person who buys into mass myth, hype and stereotype.

Let’s take the unspoken (read: B.S.) ranking of the UK that these people are playing into. Sitting at the top is London. If you’re in London, you must be cool or successful in some way. People rave about the city and quickly advertise that they live there. If you live there, you’re in the club. You made it, kid. Even if you’re an hour and a half outside of central London, tucked in some anonymous suburb – you’ve made it. Living in a wreck of building, with four people in one room and showering in the sink – you’ve made it.

Outside that, there are some other acceptable alternatives: Manchester (London but with Northerners), Brighton (London-on-sea), Bristol (London with cider), Leeds (Yorkshire London), Edinburgh (Scottish London). Abroad – cool if you plan on coming back to London. Beyond that, to these people, most other major UK cities… shitholes.

Snobbery aside, you see this bias play out in the big ways as well as the small. The sniggers when Hull or Bradford are named ‘City of Culture’. The phrase ‘getting sent to Coventry’. The cancelation of a leg of HS2. Giving London Crossrail when the Leeds to Manchester line clearly needs the money more. It’s in the fact that the BBC spends £12 per license fee payer in the Midlands, yet £757 in London. And we all know this scale exists outside of the UK too.

It goes without saying that I’m not accusing everyone from London of thinking this way, nor is this view of the place limited to London. I’ve heard many Brummies trash Wolverhampton, to only turn around and howl when the same is done to them. I’m sure Leeds does the same to Bradford. The shithole hierarchies exist everywhere, and anyone can be guilty of them.

So, what’s my point?

If you want the place you live to say something about you, then just say that thing.

Have a little humility and realise everywhere is a shithole compared to somewhere. Be wary that if you’re making that quip about Liverpool being a dump, don’t be surprised when someone from Chelsea trashes you for living in Clapham. You’re playing the same game.

Don’t feel the need to apologise about where you come from. Avoid making the jokes about your hometown being a dump or dull just to try and gain some credibility with people who already think that (I’m not being a pearl-clutcher or woke here, bits about hometowns are great, but don’t do it just for this reason). Birmingham is often at the butt-end of many jokes, but they are mostly from people I know who have moved away and feel like they need to apologise for the place that made them. Newsflash: You’re probably not doing yourself any favours with the self-loathing jokes. You’re likely confirming the bias, allowing the snobs to point and laugh at you scott-free.

Most people will go about their lives in much the same, probably boring, manner wherever they happen to be on this rock drifting through space. It’s just some don’t have to pay £1500 a month in rent for the pleasure.

Don’t buy into the scale.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s