Social media: you may love it or hate but you'll probably never admit to either one. It's not very social after all. That said, we're not here to discuss the merits or demerits of getting caught up in checking in statuses; instagramming lunches or tweeting about the traffic. What we're going to look at is the sneakier side of social media - it's ability to make you broke.
Extensive studies and research have revealed that social networking sites serve as ego boosters or destroyers for users and have concluded that active users possess mild to high levels of narcissism stemming from the belief and portrayal of only the best things in their lives. But looking in the skewed, tinted mirror that is your social media account shouldn't be damaging to your wallet per se... at least, not directly.
The Power of Peer Pressure in a Global Playground
Before this; keeping up with the Joneses for both young and old were relegated to our wealthy neighbours' new car or the popular girl at school's tres chic new prom dress. These were damaging enough to impressionable individuals before, imagine the toll it takes when it is magnified 1000 times via the people we interact with on social media all over the world.
We won't disagree with you, posting up pictures of your dream vacation, some new clothes, shoes, luxurious dinner dates and a whole lot more can be fun and quite harmless from the outset but it's effects run deeper than what you see on the surface. Call it an inferiority complex or peer pressure; this is where you feel the need to upstage someone else who has posted an experience or a purchase enviable or desirable to you.
The game is on and stakes are high now - you need to prove you live a more enviable life; that you too can afford good experiences or that you have 'arrived'.
Before you know it; you're trying to keep up with a lot more than the Joneses next door - you're trying to keep up with an entire international sphere of people with varying minimum wage levels and very different economic structures. It sounds like a game we're all going to lose.
Pffft, I don't Respond to Peer Pressure!
After reading the point above, you may be tempted to respond as much. However, there are other less obtuse ways social media is being used to squander your hard-earned ringgit. Enter, social media advertising. Social media platforms take advantage of how impressionable users are through good old advertising that is sneakily based on careful observation of users' habits on their respective search pages.
Have you looked up a camping tent or a pair of shoes lately? Before you know it, your feed will be peppered with ads by companies all vying to sell you a similar product.
It's almost like they're in your head because these banners that you see along the sides of your page are actually things that you have clicked before or online stores you've searched. If you hesitated in making a purchase the last time you visited the store - staring at it at the side of your feed along with the posts gleeful gloating Facebook friends living their rich, entitled and exciting lives - will be enough to drive you to click 'buy' and reap whatever limited shred of online persona dignity you feel you have left by affirming your worth through a new purchase!
It's diabolical. And if you didn't cave the second time you saw it; maybe the 10th might convince you.
The Peer Recommendation
If it's not the need to upstage your social friends or the in-your-face-advertising from companies that gets you to part with your hard-earned ringgit; there's a less insidious way your network may be getting you to spend more than you usually would: the lure of peer review.
You may not trust an ad trying to sell you something or a paid-for blog review but you're more likely to try something for the first time if it comes recommended by a friend. Again, we've taken an age-old social phenomena and morphed it way beyond recognition via the use of social media. The simple peer recommendation that used to be your uncle telling you about the great mechanic he knows; or a cousin-twice-removed sharing a recommendation of a new dessert place for great cake.
Suddenly, you are enraptured by the need to try this new cake store or send your car for a second mechanic opinion - something you never thought of doing until someone you trusted recommended it to you. With the ease of typing a tweet from anywhere or posting a delicious picture on Instagram; it's easier for anyone, anywhere to recommend something to you without so much as addressing you personally. How much easier it is still for you to be tempted to try what has already been tested even if it never crossed your mind to do so before.
Again, the power of peer recommendation magnified into a creature quite uncontrollable via our need to 'share' every minute detail of our lives.
OMG, We're Doomed! Shut Down Now!
It's really not as melodramatic as all that. Yes, all the above is perfectly possible on social media but does that mean you need to completely shut off? Stop the social drain on your wallet without going into massive social blackout through some reality-checking steps:
1) Unplug... once in awhile: It's totally ok to take a social media break. In fact, it's recommended. Social media can become an addiction so nip it in the bud before it wreaks havoc on your finances.
2) Keep things in perspective: Is the hundredth baby picture from your friend in a day getting you to grit your teeth? Or perhaps it's the 100th vacation picture the avid traveller keeps posting that makes you wonder why you're stuck at your desk. Stop, and put things in perspective! What these friends are doing is showcasing the best parts of their lives - not the sleepless nights from manning a screeching baby nor the jet lag and piles of unopened credit card bills from their last trip. Just like you aren't sharing much about the bad things in your life - they probably aren't either. The sooner you realise that you don't have to keep up with anyone, the better!
3) Hide away your credit cards and unlink your Paypal account. If all has failed, it's time to make sure your credit card isn't in the vicinity when you are online. Most online stores will require you to purchase via credit card... but you can't do this if your Paypal account has suddenly wiped out all trace of your credit card number - oopsie!
4) Spring clean your social media: Do you follow too many brands or small-time advertising 'personas' (that is, those friends always recommending some new purchase, vacation or restaurant)? Limit the engagement you have with temptation by unfollowing their posts or removing them completely.
Social media is still an excellent tool to keep abreast with the latest news and get clued in to what your friends are up to without having to call each one. The only thing to remember is to keep your wallet shut tight whenever the urge to 'socialise' takes hold.