We use social media every day, but have we ever considered the affect that it has on our bank account and debt?
In the past, social media had a huge impact on my spending habits, and I believe that it was one of the main reasons that I ended up with £16k of personal debt.
With the rise of social media, we have seen the rise of the social media influencer. Love them or hate them, these are the faces behind the accounts that are telling us what we should buy. But regardless, social media influencing is big business, with many accounts now making money by collaborating with brands to market products.
One issue with this type of marketing is that we are being sold a lifestyle, not the product itself, which in effect is promising something that a social media account cannot deliver; to overhaul your lifestyle with a single purchase. And particularly when the product promoted bears little relevance to the influencer’s brand (for example, when a fashion influencer advertises detox tea), they are serving their audience with neither relevance nor quality. It’s a lose-lose.
Ethically, the faces behind these accounts are ones we trust and like, someone that we followed because we thought they brought something of value to our feed, so it’s insincere when they tell us that a certain product or service changed their lives- naturally, we want to buy in- when in reality, what they are selling is something they’ve never used before, wouldn’t pay full price for, and are being paid to promote.
“All we see is perfection, which our brains process as inferiority, and we want to buy in.”
And yes, collaborations are required to be marked as such by the account when they are promoting a product, which is why you will see a hashtag or quick nod to this fact. But a few letters- usually buried in a sea of hashtags, isn’t enough to make followers aware that what they are seeing is the same as the advertisements we see in between TV programmes, only with the added bonus that someone we trust is using their platform to sell us something.
Another problem with social media influencing is that we don’t get to see the full picture. We don’t see the messy houses, the debt racked up, the arguments, the eating disorders. All we see is perfection, which our brains process as our own inferiority, and we want to buy in.
On my personal Instagram, I made the decision last year to remove some of the accounts I followed that were heavy on collaborations. It was hard at first because I had become emotionally tied to some of these accounts and enjoyed checking in with their day-to-day activity even though it made me feel that my life was comparatively inferior, which in hindsight is a bizarre norm for our society, and one of the big reasons that many of us struggle with low self-esteem. But I didn’t want to compare my life to someone else’s anymore, and I certainly didn’t want to keep being told what to buy when I was already in so much debt.
Once I unfollowed these accounts, I haven’t looked back. The truth is, it can actually be quite addictive watching someone with a seemingly charmed life going for brunch, watching a shopping haul or seeing how clean someone’s kitchen is at the end of every day (and berating yourself for it), but once it’s gone, it is rarely missed.
That’s not to say that we can’t get value from anyone on social media collaborating with a brand. I follow many influencers that promote things that I am interested in, or get value from. But influencer accounts can only build trust with their audience when their collaborations are based on an authentic recommendations; something that they use themselves, that adds value to their life, that they genuinely believe in.
“I didn’t want to compare my life to someone else’s anymore, and I certainly didn’t want to keep being told what to buy when I was already in so much debt.”
An issue that stems from social media influencing is that even regular accounts are now styling their lives for social media because we emulate what we are shown. Now, Sunday brunch barely goes unphotographed because we see this as an opportunity to project a positive version of our lives on to social media (guilty!). And how many of us go out for dinner, or on holiday, or make a particular purchase because it’ll look good for the ‘Gram?
We have created a new normal for ourselves where we project a prettier version of our lives for social media even when we are putting our purchases on credit card to do so, which only reinforces the message that real live requires embellishing. And with everyone around us doing the same thing, our expectations aren’t managed in line with our budget; it’s normal to see friends drive expensive cars, conduct expensive home renovations, and take expensive holidays, so we want to keep up. But none of us ever talk about how much debt we are in, and how vicarious our financial position is, so we keep spending.
“[Social media] should come with a warning: Unintentional use can cause depression, an inferiority complex and monthly repayments.”
Used in the right way, social media gives us the opportunity to connect with anyone, meet like-minded people and find our voice. But often, our time is spent viewing advertisements that distort reality and influence us to spend money we don’t have on things we don’t want to keep up with people we don’t like, by telling us we need to improve. It should come with a warning: Unintentional use can cause depression, an inferiority complex and monthly repayments.
The truth is that we are being sold on something we never wanted just because it’s as pretty as a picture, which is the ugly reality.