We’ve all heard the phrase “Keeping up with the Joneses”. It’s a phrase made famous by a 1913 comic strip, Keeping up with the Joneses, created by “Pop” Momand.
The strip showcases a family desperately aiming to keep up with their neighbors who happened to be the “Jones” family.
The author was poking fun at people’s desire to impress others. After the comic strip ended 26 years after its inception, it seemed the phrase “Keeping up with the Joneses” took on a whole new meaning.
It used to be about who had the bigger home, the most upgraded kitchen or whose kid has the best grades. “Keeping Up with the Joneses” typically referred to your neighbors next door or across the street, but with the rise of the internet, it has since taken on a new meaning with social media far expanding the circle of reach with whom to keep up.
Social media is a dangerous game
Social media connects us with friends, celebrities, designers and even personalities made famous by social media itself. Facebook and Instagram don’t just boast the fabulous lives of celebrities, but it has allowed seemingly ordinary people to create a false facade around their regular existence.
We are privy to the daily movements of friends who share photos that document their seemingly fabulous lifestyles – from exotic vacations in Dubai, Thailand & Bali to the latest luxury purchase or their busy social lives as they seem to hang out almost every night.
It makes you wonder what’s wrong with your life? It sets into a motion a series of thoughts and feelings that mirror inadequacy. What’s the natural response? To do what they’re doing. This is how social media has designed a culture of competition.
Falling into the trap of keeping up with the Joneses
Without realizing it, your colleague, college friend or the total stranger you followed because you liked the way they dressed or because they seemed to live the life you want to live has become “The Joneses”. You then spend your time in oblivion on social media documenting the four vacations you took last year even though you could really only afford one or showcasing your latest luxury purchases while creating debt to obtain it all.
Our culture has transitioned from wanting attention to showcasing affluence to wanting to create influence. It’s no longer about being able to drive a new car, but it’s about the make and model you drive. The more people you can successfully pull into our delusional vortex, the stronger your following becomes and the more people will believe you’re the one to envy.
Maintaining your image
People are seeking confirmation of their social and economic status by those around them. With the rise of the internet, signals come in the form of the colleges we attend, cars, houses, clothes and other material goods. Social media is a distorted reality that has created a deluded sense of self-worth and value.
We spend a ton of money on restaurants and vacations and take 50 photos in the same spot in hopes to snap the perfect ONE, which we then add filters, to perfect and enhance the image. We then post the photo and wait to see how many likes and comments our perfect picture gets.
Those dinners and vacations seem to be less about the actual experience and more about the perception we hope to create to our audience. The truth is a lot of people are intentionally curating a lifestyle of opulence on social media to maintain a certain image.
Being affected by others
A recent survey with 1,012 respondents conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of AICPA, revealed that Americans experience feelings of envy when they see friends show off their lavish lifestyle on social media.
About 40% of the respondents admitted that seeing other people’s purchases and vacations heightened their own desire to consider similar purchases and vacations.
About 21% of respondents revealed that they consider certain activities and purchases based on how it will make them look on social media.
Impressing others on Facebook or Instagram wastes time, energy and MONEY. We assume that the acknowledgment, validation or the thought of being seen in a certain light will make us feel better about ourselves and improve our value in life.
We get caught up trying to manage, control and manipulate other people’s perceptions of us. The “Keeping up with the Joneses” syndrome can lead to obsessive spending behaviors that will create stress, worry, anxiety, and financial ruin.
It can destroy the most ordinary individual you brush shoulders with or celebrities who eventually have to declare bankruptcy. We’ve all heard the news of singers, athletes and actors going broke.
The truth behind the glamorous life
I’ve been there. If you read my post on financial freedom, you will recall that I talked about my poor spending habits. While I can’t blame my spending directly on social media, I admit it’s easy to feel those feelings of insecurity when you see the glamorous lifestyle being idolized on Instagram and Facebook.
We’ve all heard the saying that we shouldn’t envy others because we never see the whole picture. We do get to see heavily edited parts of their life they want us to see.
The small parts seem enviable as we are bombarded with photos of pristine white sand beaches or pictures detailing their three-leg trip throughout Europe. But perhaps if we saw the whole picture we wouldn’t envy them any longer because we would soon realize there wasn’t anything to envy in the first place.
The edited version of their lives doesn’t include photos of the horror on their faces when they open their credit card statement or their stomach falling to the floor when they see only $500 in the bank account.
We don’t know how long it may have taken them to save for that trip or the debt that was created to make it possible.
Before that feeling of insecurity sets in – that feeling that makes you want to trade up your financial security to show the world you too can live a fabulous life, think about KEEPING UP WITH YOUR OWN GOALS.
Focus on what is important to you
Some of the people showcasing a glamorous life are in fact rich and some are not. Of the one’s who aren’t rich, some of them are going into debt to create the lifestyle while others can manage to pay for it. But just because you can manage to PAY for something doesn’t mean you can really afford it. Don’t envy those exotic vacations because they’re really not all that expensive.
Those trips to Dubai, Thailand, Bali and Europe cost as little as $1300 for a 7-night stay for air and hotel. As far as luxury things go….as nice are they are they’re just THINGS. As I’ve said before, THINGS don’t create a return on investment.
Do you feel jealous that you drive a 10-year-old Honda while your friend just posted their new BMW truck on Facebook? DON’T, because anything with a motor almost always goes down in value and the cost of the vehicle combined with maintenance will probably be 2-3x what you paid.
Focus on the importance of becoming debt free and investing to create wealth for your family. You will find it easier to decide when and how often you want to splurge on those vacations.
Happiness is a personal and unique formula
Instead of focusing on the image and lifestyle people try to project in social media, I’ve been steadfast and centered on my own goals. That is to create a DEBT FREE status and BUILD WEALTH.
When was the last time you saw your social media friends boasting about paying off their car loan, school loan or credit card? Chances are you haven’t because we live in a culture where the acquisition of things is celebrated and praised.
I’ve come to accept happiness is a personal and unique formula.
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Freedom is achieved by not keeping up with the Joneses
Our journey to happiness will vary greatly, but creating priorities is the first step. When Mr. Mindful Dollar and I started on our debt free journey, we never took the time to calculate what our real savings rate would look like. But when we successfully pay off our DEBT in 11 months, we will be free to take an exotic vacation every month, drive a Range Rover, buy designer crap if we choose or maybe I’ll quit my job and become a stay at home mom.
Chances are we won’t be doing either of those things. But we’ll have the FREEDOM to explore either option if we choose. Your choices in life should be a sum total of the things that are most important to you.
When you start to live and create your own kind of happiness, you’ll start to care less about what others think of you. After all, since we live in a society where people are always judging each other, why not just live according to your own rules and forget everything else?
Creating our own happiness
So while others persist or pretend to be The Joneses, we’ll be slaving away at our debt to join the small yet unpopular group of people in the world who value the freedom that comes with being debt free.
Our sole focus is to establish full financial control that debt has stolen for the last decade, make sound decisions that increase our net worth and live fulfilled lives without the headache of keeping up with anyone around us. Who knows, maybe secretly, “The Joneses” are trying to keep up with us.