8 Characters Or Less: The Rise of The Vanity Plate In The Social Media Age

I never used to spend that much time behind cars. For the last 7 years of my life I lived in Manhattan, a city where it seems as thou everyone takes public transportation. Certainly no one I knew owned a car. With garage fees approaching rents for comparable size spaces that was too expensive to even dream of. Those fortunate enough to have a parking space were not spending much time hanging out with.

Recently I moved to the suburbs where a car became a necessity. As a result I got myself a small reliable fuel efficient vehicle and began spending more of my time waiting in traffic. After a few days I began to notice something. So many of the cars around me had vanity plates, custom badges of vehicle registration, plastered to the front and back of their cars.

In a world where tweets seem long, the effort to communicate something in a license plate is heroic. Limited to only 8 characters it takes true economy of words to say something special. Not to mention, this epithet will be displayed to the driving world, on a constant basis, so it better be good. And so I cannot help but wonder what goes through people’s heads when they choose the words inscribed on these plates, especially when the subject matter covers such a wide range of topics.

Some plates sing words of praise. A woman in my building proudly exclaims to the world:


Yet I have no idea what she does to warrant that title. It better be something extremely important. Some are punny like a car I stopped behind the other day,


Clearly displayed this Jaguar owner’s lame ass sense of humor (you know he thought it was so clever when he ordered that plate). Others are obnoxious like


On the back of a Ferrari. Yes clearly you have a faster car than my broke ass Impreza but you probably hate your life way more than I do. At least enough to spend $200,000 on a car to forget about it. Some just make no sense, like


I cant tell if this is supposed to be “Loose Change,” in which case I’m even more confused about why one would be proud of having a large of amount of the least efficient form of currency. Or “Luiz Chang” a proud homage to an individual of mixed asian and latino heritage. Whatever the root it clearly meant something to this person.

I’m sure everyone has seen their fair share of interesting and entertaining license plates. But what strikes me as more intriguing is that only recently did I notice a proliferation of these titles. In the past we were content to run around with whatever random 7 letter and number assignment the state supplied. Today, however, its like there’s a need to customize everything. To stand out on a highway I otherwise identical, although differently colored, cars. I associate this with the impact of social media. Just as we are encouraged to share every bit of our lives with others in one form or another, everything we do must no become a statement individuality. Where Facebook, Twitter and Instagram leave off, the license plate picks up. A constant status update to the world. Whatever that status may be.


About clevis1

Christian Levis is the creator of EchoFriendly, a location based chat application for the iOS. He is a graduate of NYU's College of Arts & Sciences and holds degrees in biology and English along with a professional certificate in marketing. He also a graduate of the Fordham University School of Law, and deeply concerned about privacy and the impact that social media has on intellectual property. Christian is also a jazz pianist. His favorite band is Steely Dan. His favorite book is too hard to choose. He enjoys seafood but not really lobster and drinks more coffee than is probably healthy for a normal human being. You can find him on Twitter @echomeback Or on Facebook as...Christian Levis
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