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The Danger of Social Media

We all love social media. It might be as simple as looking at peoples’ statuses on Whatsapp or scrolling Facebook, Insta or TikTok for some entertainment.

Scrolling social media can be addictive, and there is a hidden danger that might be influencing how you spend your money and live your life.

The danger is the FOMO that social media can give you and how that impacts what you do with your money.

FOMO & Emotional Spending

FOMO: the fear of missing out is one of the leading culprits that drives what is known as ‘emotional spending’.

Emotional spending refers to the act of spending money in response to emotions, such as stress, anxiety, sadness, boredom, or excitement, rather than a deliberate intention to purchase something.

Emotional spending can also occur as a result of social pressure or the desire to keep up with others’ lifestyles. This type of spending can lead to impulsive and unnecessary purchases and relates to how we feel more than what we actually need or can afford.

How Cool Are You?

We all want to have a nice life and be liked and respected by others. We all want to be one of the ‘cool’ kids.

In today’s world, social media presents you with an endless 24/7 global stream of aspirational living featuring a curated group of friends, wealthy celebrities, and influencers who eat expensive brunches, buy fancy gadgets, and wear luxury clothing, all of which can make us feel like our modest lifestyle is inferior to theirs.

It’s hard not to feel the pressure to “keep up with the Joneses” when social media gives you a front-row seat to everyone’s highlight reel.

The Hidden Cost of Social Media FOMO

FOMO is probably as old as having neighbours and has an impact on us all to some extent. We may not even realise it.

Still, whether we realise it or not it can translate into some very expensive shopping habits.

A recent survey by Allianz Life found that 55% of millennials have experienced FOMO, and 57% say they spent money they hadn’t planned to because of what they saw on social media.

FOMO is not exclusive to millennials however and the phenomenon spans all generations, genders, relationship statuses, and income levels.

According to an article by Kerry Taylor on the topic, the e-commerce consultancy group RichRelevance found that Pinterest users spend on average R2,500 per converted order.

These users saw something they liked, decided they needed it and then spent money to get…whatever it was. A classic example of media impacting on spending. A win for the advertisers and marketing people.

If you’re checking your social feeds anywhere near the global average of 135 minutes per day, chances are you’re dropping some serious bucks based on what you are seeing on social media.

Fighting FOMO

If you are living on less, you probably have to stick to a pretty tight budget each month in order to ensure that you make your debt repayments. The danger then is that FOMO might throw you off your game and wreck your plans.

So how do you fight FOMO?

Limiting the time that you spend on social media is one key to taming emotional spending.

Look at who you follow and ask yourself: “Does this person give me financial anxiety?” “Am I comparing my self-worth to others?” If so, then unfollow or mute that feed.

‘Limiting the time that you spend on social media is one key to taming emotional spending’

If you want to go hardcore then removing social apps like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest from your phone is a solid way to kill the source of emotional bankruptcy, relativity bias, and social comparisons elevated through social media.

Or perhaps simply adjusting your online circle and social feeds to less showy people and stuff can boost your relative happiness (and hopefully decrease FOMO) since your source of comparison is gone. By simply avoiding those who are showing off you might feel better while you are on social media.

The Importance of Acknowledging Social Media Realities

It’s important to acknowledge that social media is not a reflection of reality.

The heavily curated images and messages we see online are often far from the truth, and it is unrealistic to compare our lives to others on social media.

What we are seeing in a few seconds may give us the impression that the person we are seeing has those circumstances all day every day. We don’t get to see all the hard work that lies hidden in the background getting that perfect shot.

We need to realise that what we are seeing is not the full, realistic picture. It is a moment frozen in time and well planned to give a particular impression.

Can You Give It 24 Hours?

Before making a purchase online because of something nice that you have seen or come across can you give yourself a full 24 hours to get over the initial impulse to buy?

By allowing your brain this time to get rid of the initial comparative urge and influence of the media you have seen advertising whatever it is you can avoid a purely emotional response and engage some of your rational intellectual thinking.

‘can you give yourself a full 24 hours to get over the initial impulse to buy?’

Give yourself time to think about if you really need the thing or service. Weigh up if it falls within your budget or if you can afford it now. Perhaps you might realise it will take a little saving up to afford the purchase and you can then plan and budget better for it.

Don’t Let Social Media or FOMO derail Your Financial Habits

Social media FOMO is a real problem for many people, and it can be costly. By limiting the time you spend on social media and being mindful of who you follow, you can avoid feeling like you need to keep up with the Joneses.

Remember, social media is not a reflection of reality, and it’s important to keep this that before making any quick purchases.

So next time you feel the urge to follow that link and spend those bucks, consider if you can maybe just wait a little bit and decide if you really need that thing tomorrow.

Note: To read the rest of this issue of Debtfree magazine click next/previous