The Financial Dangers of Social Media (and How to Avoid Them)
- By Terra Brown
We all do it. Someone will post a picture to Instagram or Facebook or Twitter of some recent amazing purchase, and suddenly you have to have that item too. So you rush to the internet to purchase it, wait impatiently for it to arrive in the mailbox, and then maybe wear/use it one time. This is social media shopping, and it’s the reason most of us are struggling between paychecks.
It doesn’t really seem like such a big deal in the moment, but if you take a step back to look at the larger picture, you’ll realize just how often you make a purchase because some person you probably don’t even know shared a photo of that item on social media. This is just one of the many dangers of social media, but it’s damaging your personal happiness in more than one way.
It isn’t news to say social media has a knack for making people feel left out or like their lives aren’t good enough. Social media is the #1 cause of FOMO in my opinion, and it applies to material possessions just as much as it applies to events and milestones.
Personally, I find myself constantly frustrated with my closet. It never has the new, exciting pieces I see on Instagram, and I’m ruled by fear of outfit-repeating online. (Sorry, Kate from Lizzie McGuire, but I like to wear all of my clothes multiple times.) As much as I love the messages shared by all of the bloggers and fitness buffs I follow online, they make me feel an insecure compulsion to buy a ton of shit I don’t need.
It’s the Modern Version of Keeping up With the Joneses
Except the Joneses are now the Kardashians. Back in the day (when social media was a newborn), it was a way for you to stay in touch with family and friends, to share your life, and to connect with people you hadn’t seen in forever. Now it’s a platform you rely on to tell you which top you should be wearing, what car you should be driving, and which brands you should trust. Social media is now solidly about consumerism.
Seeing your “friends” post images of their new sports cars, homes, and big-ass engagement rings creates a sense of failure instead of making you happy for them. Now it’s all about having the same possessions or bigger ones if you can swing it with your credit card. This kind of behavior costs you money you shouldn’t even be spending. The sad thing is if you didn’t see those posts, you wouldn’t run out to meet their bet.
Seeing someone else’s highlight reel steals the appreciation you have for your own. So what if you don’t have a new outfit to post every single day? You have other, more important things to appreciate in your life. It’s hard to fight off those feelings of inadequacy and realize there’s nothing wrong with where you are in life or the things you can afford.
All That Subliminal Advertising
Companies know the power of social media, and that’s why they rely heavily on targeted advertising. They’ve learned exactly how to appeal to an audience who isn’t even aware they’re being hunted down. You might be scrolling past those banner ads and ignoring the sidebars, but those images still seep in. The web knows what you search when online shopping, so it knows exactly which ads to show you for the best purchasing results. Basically, the internet is doing all it can to persuade you to type in your card number. Giving in is all too easy.
I’ve realized the best way to avoid impulsive spending is to be aware of which items and ads most appeal to you. For me, it’s workout gear. You might be a total sucker for an eyeshadow palette. By identifying exactly which types of items you’re most likely to order, you can steal yourself against those urges, and then employ the necessary defensive strategy when temptation shows up.
- Ask yourself if you NEED the item.
I love sneakers so much, and each time I see my favorite bloggers share a pic of theirs I want to drop all of the necessary cash. When this happens, I stop for a minute and ask myself if it’s something I actually need. Most of the time I don’t need a third pair of black running shoes.
- Wait two days.
If you still think you need that item, wait at least two days before purchasing it. Sometimes the impulse can override your good sense, so you still think YES, YES. I ABSOLUTELY NEED THAT LOCH NESS MONSTER-SHAPED LADLE RIGHT NOW. And then you’ve completely forgotten about that ladle within a day or so and wonder why you dropped $15 on it. If you still strongly feel you need the item days after the fact and feel you’ll regret passing on it, then by all means buy it (if you can afford it).
- Avoid social channels.
If you know you’re easily influenced and are constantly fighting against the urge to purchase stuff, then you should probably stay off of social media as much as possible. Recently, I felt social media was causing me to lose appreciation for my life simply because I wasn’t jetting off to exotic locales every weekend or coming home with oodles of new stuff all the time. So I decided to take the emphasis off of my social feeds and place it on the things in my life. I tucked my social media apps away in my iPhone folders so I couldn’t even see them from the home screen. This keeps me from constantly checking Instagram and ordering new clothes all the time.
- Unfollow the people who make you feel this way.
Nothing against friends who simply want to share the big moments of their lives, but if the stuff on your news feed is stirring up negative emotions about your life, it’s time to change who you follow. I used to follow a ton of fashion bloggers, and I obviously started hating my closet and repeating outfits. I stopped appreciating what I had because it seemed like they had better stuff. I unfollowed them.
Now I love my closet (most days). Unfollow the bloggers and brands that cause this same reaction for you. You’ll be much happier and so will your wallet.
Follow Terra on Instagram: @terrabrown3
Last modified on January 6th, 2017