PERSONAL FINANCE: Don’t believe social media lies – Money Perception

What you see online may not always be the true financial situation of the person posting updates. PHOTO | FILE

Rebecca has decided to take a break from social media. She says that the last thing she needs while going through a period of change is to see how perfect other people’s lives are. You see, Rebecca has just been retrenched. Money is tight. She has had to rethink how she spends money; every coin matters.

Rebecca realised she was getting depressed when she went on social media. Everybody else looks like they have it together while she feels that she has stalled. Even posts from her friends about work have made her feel that there is something wrong with her. They have pictures of themselves thriving and attending conferences in luxurious venues. However, the truth of the matter is that things are rarely the glitz and glam that is projected on social media. Some people have even made a career out of looking like they have an untarnished life but the reality tends to be very different. Here are some of the twisted financial social media lies.

The lifestyle lie is a major one. To Rebecca, having to cut down on spending highlighted to her how everybody else seems to have buckets of money to dine at great restaurants. I have heard of people who will choose restaurants according to how ‘Instagram worthy’ they are. Other people look like they are always on holiday and have the finances to keep going to luxurious resorts. I often wonder whether they are enjoying the holiday or whether it’s just about the number or pictures that they can post online.

Then they are others who are always buying something or the other – clothes, lipstick, shoes – and you start feeling like you should do the same. Like life is one big shopping spree for them. Remember, people choose to share only the good stuff. They do not share the stress when the credit card bill arrives. They definitely do not post their chapati and ndengu dinner. They will not admit to having borrowed to keep up this illusion. They will not show the fights that are going on at home over spending. Don’t ever try to keep up with what you see online. Nobody’s life is perfect 24-7.

The other lie that this leads to is that it is important what other people think, even people you don’t know that well. When life becomes about how many likes, comments or shares you get, it can get very stressful. Why do we place so much emphasis on other people’s opinions? That is why some people will spend to put on social media. For the short term high they will receive from all the attention. It doesn’t last because the bar is always being raised. It is very easy to find yourself doing things simply so that other people can see, not necessarily because you really enjoy them or value them.

The other lie that comes out of all this is that we think we are not good enough. Take Rebecca: As she saw other people jet setting she began to think it is her fault that she got retrenched. Of course it is happening to others, but maybe they will not do a post on it. Social media can cheat us that unless everything in life is going perfectly, there is something wrong with us. Then we do what we can to project this perfect life even if it means begging, borrowing or stealing. You may not trend online but it does not mean you are not enough just the way you are.

If you do find yourself feeling bad because of social media, it may be time to take a break. This break helps bring you back to reality and also go out and seek real connections. The cost of the time we spend on social media is also high. We can do courses on the same amount of time when you add it all together. So before you try to keep up or feel bad about your own life, remember the picture painted in front of you is not always telling the full story.