We don't own a TV at home and we don't usually read news. Mrs. T and I are not ignorant, we simply think that 99% of all news are sad and depressing. Because the sad and depressing nature, we decided that there's no point wasting our time. With that said, because I'm an investor, it is necessary to follow financial news to understand how businesses, that we own, are doing. I've been getting most of the news from blogs and other financial sites like Seeking Alpha. When it comes to truly important news, I'll eventually read about them on Facebook. This is why I like using Facebook. It allows me to get some of the most information through my friends. But when I examine how Facebook affects my life, it has a greater impact than just providing news.
If you use Facebook, you know that people share a lot of personal information. People provide updates on what they're doing and post pictures when they are on vacation, eating out, or having a good time. Although Facebook is a great way to get important news, follow people, and catch up with friends, I believe Facebook is doing more harms than benefits when it comes to living a frugal lifestyle.
When you see where your friends went on vacation, what fancy gadget they recently purchased, where they went for dinner, or what they did for the weekend, does that make you feel a little jealous? Does this make you want to post pictures next time you are on vacation or when you do something spectacular for the weekend simply to show off?
What if you were not invited to a party or a social event that most of your friends attended? Do you feel that you got left out? Does this make you want to do whatever you can, to get invited for the next party?
Seeing status updates and pictures on Facebook may subconsciously make you want to post similar updates in the future as well. We all have a tendency to follow the trend and Facebook just allows us to follow the trend on an even faster pace than before. If you ponder for a second, this is exactly what "keeping up with the Joneses" means. Facebook allows us to keep up with the Joneses on a completely different level. Instead of trying to keep up with our neighbours, we're now trying to keep up with our friends and the other 1.28 billion active Facebook users in the world. We're comparing our friends' lifestyles with our own. Our desire to keep up to make ourselves feel better eventually consumes the best of us.
This is a dangerous game to play and that's why all personal finance books state that you should not keep up with the Jones. This concept is really easy in theory but extremely difficult to do in practice, especially in the social media age that we live in today. For example, if I look at my Facebook feed right now, I see the following:
1. videos of the ice bucket challenge
2. Food pictures when friends are eating out
3. Vacation pictures from Chicago, and Las Vegas
4. Pictures of people on their sailboats drinking beer, having a good time
What might be my reactions?
1. I have not been "invited" to do the ice bucket challenge, I feel left out.
2. I feel that I should go out and eat a fancy dinner tomorrow so I can share some pictures too!
3. Wow Chicago and Las Vegas look nice. I wish I could be there too. So jealous. Perhaps I will book a trip to Las Vegas so I can have some fun too!
4. I wish I could be on a sailboat, drink beer, and party like my friends too. Why don't I try my best to get invited next time? Better yet, why don't I take out a loan and purchase my own sailboat?
Do these reactions serve me? Absolutely not! But it's human nature to feel this way. If this is your initial reaction, I believe in the long run it will have a negative impact to your frugal lifestyle. You're living in a constant fear of missing out and wanting to keep up with other people around you.
My best suggestion? Stop using Facebook completely. Yes it's hard but it can be done.
If you're like me and can't cut off Facebook completely, maybe only check once every couple days or less.
Ultimately you need to stop comparing your frugal lifestyle with your friends' extravagant lives. Stop living vicariously through your friends and stop trying to become like them. You're unique so quit being like other people. Furthermore people generally tend to post only the best things about their lives on Facebook. Grass is always greener on the other side. Ignorance is a bliss, start practicing!
Do you envy your friends when you see their Facebook updates?
Note: When I think about it more, the "keeping up with the Joneses" phenomenon occurs with any other social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and etc. Watch out!