ARE YOU KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES?

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, which far expands the circle of reach with whom to keep up.

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 celebs 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, and 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.

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 4 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.

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 an obscene amount 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 an upscale lifestyle on social media to maintain a certain image.

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 trying to impress others, believing that the acknowledgement, 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 that 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.

I've been there. If you read my FIRST POST, 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 lives 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 instead get to see the small parts that they want us to see. The small parts seem enviable as we are bombarded with photos of them on pristine white sand beaches or photos detailing their 3 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 can live a fabulous life, think about KEEPING UP WITH YOUR OWN GOALS.

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 in debt to create this lifestyle while others can manage to pay for the lifestyle. But just because you can manage to PAY for something doesn't mean you can really afford it. Don't envy those exotic vacations. Those trips to Dubai, Thailand, Bali and Europe cost as little as $1400 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 about 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.

Make the choice to build your life on the foundation of your most important priorities and not the foundation of others. True happiness is a personal and unique formula. Our journey to experiencing happiness will be different but one thing remains true - identifying your goals. Some people may choose to work 70 a weeks for 15 years so they can retire early and travel the world. For some, that may not be a priority. Whatever is most important to you, your life should reflect a list of choices that support your most important priorities. 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?

Does your bank balance and overall net worth determine how you spend your money? Or does the latest Instagram post from your favorite celebrity or the friend you're sub-consciously keeping up with?