social media
When does social media start to have a tangible negative effect on our lives — and pocketbooks? (Illustration by Francesca Mahaney, Pratt Institute)

Is Social Media Turning Us Into Reckless Spenders?

It’s become an integral part of our lives, affecting the way we feel about ourselves — and possibly causing some financial drawbacks as well.

Screens x
social media

It’s become an integral part of our lives, affecting the way we feel about ourselves — and possibly causing some financial drawbacks as well.

Social media has become the center of many of our lives. Whether we’d like to admit it or not, browsing through social media fills in the cracks of our monotonous, daily existence. Waiting in line at the store? Social media is there to distract you with an endless world to dive into. Watching TV but still bored? Social media will gladly remind you of how perfect that one influencer’s life is. Something exciting happen in your life and you want to show it off? Social media has got all of your bragging needs covered. This one simple, yet somehow complex, aspect of life has permeated every free second of time. In fact, the average person spends over two hours a day on social media. How is that? It should be so easy to just scroll for a few minutes and then log off.

Instead, it lulls us into this whole new world that is filled to the brim with attractive influencers, that one girl from high school that you still hate, and every family member that “wants to know what’s going on with you.” It’s like a train wreck that you can’t look away from. You scroll through your feed, watching what seems like a movie of everyone else’s life. In fact, this movie is just a highlight reel. It’s all the big moments in their lives, many of them big and positive like flashy rainbows and very few that are dark and stormy rain clouds. While we logically know that we’re only seeing the happy, beautiful, perfect parts, we still get disillusioned into believing that this is their life and that it should be ours too.

We see pictures of girls with perfect bodies and made-up faces, believing that it’s effortless and authentic. We forget that their perfect bodies are a combination of hard work, genetics and the right pose. That their gorgeous faces are a cocktail of makeup, genetics and good lighting. So what does this do to us? It makes us insecure, endlessly grasping for this unreachable concept of perfection. And what do we do to try to reach this unreachable goal? We model our lives after these people we idealize. We wear makeup, buy the right clothes and upgrade our entire lives just to fit into the mold that we see.

This is what makes us reckless spenders. Instead of looking at our own lives and honoring them, we blindly try to convert our lives into those worthy of an influencer. We buy the makeup they wear, adjust our closet to match their style and sometimes go as far as remodeling our homes to reflect the accounts we stare at every day.

Now, don’t get me wrong. We all have role models and it’s okay to follow aspects of their lives or mentality. If an actress you look up to has a style that inspires you, then go for it. Modify your closet if that’s what makes you feel confident and comfortable.

But if you look up to the actress so much that you want to be her and start overhauling your entire life to feel like her, then that’s an issue. If looking at her feed every day makes you feel inadequate because you don’t have her house, body or money, then that’s an issue. That’s when it’s our turn to look inward, evaluate what we’re feeling and then make peace with it.

We can’t spend insane amounts of money just so we can feel like the models we see on social media. We can’t buy expensive makeup if it’s not within a comfortable price range just so we can feel like that influencer we like. In all reality, this is what makes social media so toxic. It’s great to connect with our friends, families and people we look up to. But it’s detrimental when we start to feel inadequate because of it all. It’s harmful for us to buy that brand of collagen that an actress uses because we believe it’s going to prevent aging or instantly make us thinner. It’s so pernicious that social media has been linked with depression.

Now, am I advocating for a complete boycott of social media? No, of course not. Just like the rest of us, I find a certain comfort in social media. Especially during the weird times we’re in right now, I love to scroll through social media. In fact, in a lot of ways it makes me feel better about this virus and being quarantined. People are making some hilarious memes, videos and parodies, helping me not to fall into a pit of moodiness about being stuck at home. It’s reassuring to see that I’m not the only one having trouble coping with all of this and it’s uplifting to see people draw humor from it as well.

So, I’m not saying that we have to throw social media into a fire to burn for all eternity. What I’m saying is that we need to be smart about it. We need to be able to acknowledge that we’re seeing the shiniest parts of people’s lives. The parts that they want us to see. And we need to be smart about not letting those facades of perfection become a pedestal that we aspire to. It’s okay to not look like a model when we wake up in the morning. It’s okay to not live in a mansion. It’s okay to not have the wardrobe of that person we look up to.

It’s fine to not spend money (or even mental energy) on all of these aspects of other people. When we focus that much on another person’s life, we’re detracting from our own. Instead of living in our own life that is probably filled with many good things, we’re wishing we could live someone else’s life. Let’s be honest here. Do we really want their lives? Do we want to feel the pressure to always look beautiful and thin and perfect? Because I think if many of us sat down and thought through every aspect of their lives and not just the parts that we see, we might actually change our minds.

Leave a Reply