Social Media is a big part of our lives. At least, if you are to believe the statistics, it’s a big part of our lives:
- There are 3.4 billion active social media users. Who, on average, have 7.6 social media accounts and spend 116 minutes a day on social media.
- 91% of retail brands use two or more social media channels and 81% of all small and medium businesses use some kind of social platform.
- These numbers are growing with no expectation for their decline in the near future. Social media users grew by 320 million between September 2017 and October 2018—a new social media user every 10 seconds.
Social media has a significant impact on the way we live our lives. And, according to a recent article in The Washington Post, our friends’ posts are also compelling us to buy more and more.
There are a number of factors (both internally and externally) that compel us to consume in the society we live in. Social media is certainly one of the leading causes and it’s worthwhile to point out why.
Here is how social media influences us to buy:
Personal Spending is More Visible. This is the argument from the article above. It states, “Humans are social creatures, and we have a tendency to evaluate our own standing in life relative to how our friends and neighbors are doing. We want to keep up with the Joneses, and stay ahead of the Smiths. Because of this, when we see other people spending money, we have a tendency to think that we can — or should — be spending, too.” No doubt this is true! Seeing others spend money on things (houses, food, vacations), subtly prompts us to do the same.
More (and Better Targeted) Advertising. Every media platform provides opportunity for advertising (television, newspaper, radio, magazines, etc.) and each provide some level of targeting (a reader of SHAPE Magazinewill see different ads than a reader of National Geographic). But no platform in history has provided opportunity for targeted advertising like social media. As Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, (even Amazon) collect more and more personal data about us, the ads we see become more and more relevant as companies use that data to pick and choose who sees their ads.
Convenience of Shopping from Your Device. Social media advertising is also more effective because the opportunity to purchase is immediate. In the old days, if you saw an advertisement on television, you’d need to remember it for the next time you drove to the store. to buy it. This inconvenience slowed the effectiveness of those ads. But nowadays, the friction has been removed. We see an ad on social media and are immediately offered the opportunity to purchase the item in a matter of seconds with just a few clicks.
Chasing “Likes.” Not only does what we see about others on social media influence us to buy, but often times we buy because of what we want others to see about us. It’s just too easy to fall into the trap of chasing likes and followers on social media—the creators reward us for it. Nice things, trending products, fancy destinations, and fine food & drink play well on social media. Most of us know that, and spend more than we should, just to impress people on social media. But there are better ways to impress others.
The Fiction We Share Online. Social media feeds are fictionized versions of the real person. Think about it. Nobody posts photos from their bad-hair day on social media or shares their deepest struggles and problems. Instead, we present a mostly made-up version of ourselves to others. These fictionized versions of people that we encounter for two hours every day online paint an unrealistic version of what life looks like. When we begin comparing our lives to theirs, we begin chasing an idealized life—often by believing if we spend more, we can attain it.
The Negative Emotions Stirred Up by Social Media. The studies have been conducted and the research is in. Social media does not, on the whole, make us feel better about ourselves. For many of the reasons stated above, social media users tend to report higher levels of depression, loneliness, and lower self-esteem. These emotions of isolation and discontent often result in retail therapy or seeking to overcome our discontent with consumer-based purchases.
Influencers and Their Influence. It doesn’t take long for a new company or product to get recognized by making a splash on social media. Companies and brands who used to spend time and money and goodwill building a brand can accomplish it now in less than 24 hours. Influencers are available for hire and can almost immediately spark conversation around a new trend. But just because someone has paid a well-known influencer to take a picture with their new purse or line of shoes does not mean it is something needed in our life today—or ever.
Social media, it seems to me, is here to stay. And the platforms that are being built and expanding offer wonderful opportunities to enrich our lives.
But just like the invention of fire, it is going to take some time for society to figure how to use them for good and not harm. My hope with this article is to expose some of the dangers of social media—so we can all live a bit more intentionally going forward.
Roger P. says
I had to read this for one of my classes smh. I thought it was stupid asf ;)
shoutout to daddy DiMaggio <3
I agree with all of this, but I have to say that social media is just a tool and what you get out of it depends largely on how you use it.. I try to be really mindful and selective about who I follow online, and I have unfollowed people in the past who’ve (unintentionally) made me feel bad about myself or like I’m not or don’t have enough.
Nadee Jayaweera says
Social Media is a Tool. yes. But if you are not aware you can easily get trapped in the tool. You can be manipulated. Not everyone is conscious about whats going on. Nor are able to manage themselves.
Amy | More Time Than Money says
There are definite downsides to social media. I’ve adopted the attitude that social media posts are all essentially ads, even if the poster isn’t actually selling something, they are trying to persuade us of something an idea, a version of themselves etc. It helps me maintain a healthy scepticism.
I have found a silver lining though. I’ve found a great community of people on Instagram who, like me, are trying to live a bit more intentionally. I get a lot of encouragement from seeing them making counter-cultural choices and helps to normalise another way of living.
I agree with the advertising part.
I have a question about the study linking social media and depression. Do you have the reference? I don’t think it’s necessarily a “casual” relationship, I.e. social media causes depression. At least not in everyone. I have depression and sometimes my only activity, my only fun, is pursuing my FB activity groups. So maybe people with mental health disorders use social media more?? Idk, but I’m really curious.
This is an excellent post and I completely agree with you, Joshua.
I used to have a Facebook account some years ago and found that I was wasting my very valuable time. After only a couple of months I closed up my account. Sad to say I got emails and phone calls from some people asking me what they had done wrong to cause me to leave. (These were some past college friends etc.) When I explained to them that I just didn’t want to have anything to do with Facebook they were offended and cut off all contact with me. People get so addicted to social media and seriously need to get a life, a ‘real’ life.
Keep up the good work Joshua!
Mr. M says
Targeted marketing has gotten so good with the combination of big data and social media that they are “spearfishing” people with ads just like scammers do with email spearfishing. It will get to the point in the near future that ads will be tailored to the individual and no two people will see the same ad. Now that is a hard thing to resist.. unless of course you unplug the cord…
I only have one social media account – Instagram – and I created it last year solely, only, purely, wholly, totally and exclusively so that I had a way to talk privately to one particular person who lives on the other side of the country. My Instagram account has zero content (unless something happens, it will always be that way), I only follow a few people, and I only check it a few times a year because I don’t have a smartphone and I can’t currently use my computer to message, so I don’t have a reason to check it anyway. Ads drive me absolutely insane, so my solution, after doing research and getting some feedback from friends, is a strong double whammy of 2 separate and very constricting ad blockers, which together take care of absolutely everything. I’ve never been a “twitch buy” sort of person (usually, things sit in my cart for at least several days to even weeks or months, and occasionally over a year, before I actually buy them), so I wanted the ads gone because they were in the way and thus annoying (and on some sites, inappropriate, even though the actual site content was fine).
I also think it would be a good idea to use another engine for a group to gather. The Real Aloud Revival has a different engine group that’s not Facebook. I also don’t plan to.
If you dont like social media so much , why dont you shut down your uncluttered course group? I mean isn’t that the main engine of how you promote your business, by using others free labor to spread your message?
So true. The ease of online buying led me to spending way more than I would otherwise. Doing the “Uncluttered” course has probably saved me thousands of $$$ as it made me think twice about whether I actually need something.
Two things that also made a BIG difference –
Deleted Facebook for all time (also avoiding Instagram), and
installed an ad blocker on my browser.
The biggest drawback is lack of access to FB groups such as for the Uncluttered course or special events being planned on FB. But I found that it’s a small price to pay for a new sense of calm — and peace of mind. (Plus, after recent revelations, I’m not comfortable supporting an enterprise with questionable ethics and a long record of disregard users’ data and privacy.)
Rebecca M says
Thanks Joshua! Your blogs continue to motivate me in a more “simplified” life. For me it’s has (and continues to me) small consistent changes that bring about the paradigm shift to a new lifestyle behavior pattern. Thank you for all you do! I frequently share your blogs on my Group Page (as an Independent Consultant for a company). This one has been shared as well. A little scary due to the topic, however, it struck a chord with me and I believe this was an important topic to share!
Tony W says
I agree. Social media is big and growing but nothing new and more of the same. I think it will serve us all better to understand that Social media and most of what is promoted to us in this society is not real.
When I look at my yearly calendar I see most of the holidays drenched in fantasy and consumerism. We are constantly bombarded with both ;-(
Roger P. says
Tony bro what’s up with that pfp goofy looking mf
Ginny Miller says
At some point, I realized that in everything I do (both social media and in real life), I carefully craft the impression that I want to give others. I recognized that the “perfect me” I was trying to create came with too much pressure-both for me and for those who know me. By only presenting what I consider to be my best self, I don’t allow anyone to really know me. And, since we all compare ourselves, I was unintentionally making others uncomfortable around me and feel worse about themselves when they were around “perfect me”. That is not at all who I want to be. I want to be a real person with real flaws who others can feel comfortable and accepted around.
Now, I put a (very short) limit on my screen time and make an effort to allow people into my messy life without apology. I am certainly happier for it. I hope others are as well.
Connie Brown says
Yes, it’s wonderful to actually move around in the real world, get outside to enjoy your garden, and especially to meet people face-to-face! I’m amazed at how friendly people are these days. Most just want to be seen and heard as/by a flesh and blood person.
I’m not on twitter, and I’m only on fb to follow my kids & grand daughter (I only have 28 fb friends! haha) and I’ve never clicked on advertising thru fb. But what gets me is Instagram. All the pretty pictures. Many times that I don’t want to count, I’ve clicked through a pretty picture of someone’s home décor to the website where they’ve purchased those exact items for their home. It’s so easy and fast and before you know it, you’re about to make a purchase without really thinking deeply about it, because you just want what they have. As much as I love scrolling through Instagram because I find it relaxing and I kind of zone out, I’m finding more and more Instagram squares on my feed are filling up as advertising, and its the one advertising medium that really suckers me in. I’m going to have to be really careful with Instagram.
In agreement here. I have twice made the decision to stop consuming social media to bolster my mental health and I can’t begin tell you how impactful its been. I have not deleted accounts but they lie dormant. I am more content with my life and the things I have, and more able to concentrate on my own life goals. I no longer waste time “just checking”, I’m less stressed, annoyed, disappointed, and judgemental. I too miss the 80’s.
I also miss the 80’s, but more because of the smaller vehicles, lower speed limits, less traffic & because I could do a lot of work on my early 80’s subcompact car (I’m female) & riding a small motorcycle wasn’t as dangerous as it is now.
Roger P. says
LAME loser + ratio
This is precisely why I only have ONE social media account (Twitter). I used to have accounts on Facebook and Instagram but once I realized how much time I was wasting daily on those platforms and how much they each negatively impacted my feelings and behaviour, I deleted them. People need to understand that they DO NOT need social media to feel like validated human beings. I miss the ’80s and ’90s so much – times were much simpler back then (and we spent far less money).
I deleted my Facebook over a year ago. Just turned a year without it. I can’t describe how my life is better this way. Everyone should DLT Facebook, Instagram and Twitter! My life is so calm now.
I have time to improve my life, instead of looking someone else’s life, from a screen of laptop and phone. I used to look a lot how my friends I never met in decade were doing on Facebook facade.
I feel better, and I enjoy my life more, despite I don’t have much to show. Like events I attended before just to post a picture to someone for a like or two. Now I don’t need likes in my life.
Delete. Deactivate. Remove. It’s all good!!!
Very good points made here! But I don’t agree on all accounts. Yes, perhaps you could still make hundreds of people go and buy a T-shirt with just an Instagram or a blog post, but the tide is changing. These days if you’re “influenced” so easily, it’s not the “influencer’s” (what on Earth is that word in the first place) fault, but your own decision.
If someone thinks they’re a lesser person because they lack that T-shirt then I’m sorry for them. My suggestion for those people would be to consider finding an actual life.
People should be educated enough in 2019 to know what they need rather than what they want. Or I don’t know, maybe I live in a privileged bubble here in Europe but this adoration for consumerism just feels so foreign and soo last season to me. :)
Karla Holley says
This is a great article! It’s so true and it’s much easier to shop more impulsively now that we can do it right from our devices with just a few clicks. I wanted to think I was doing better fighting these issues by deleting my Facebook (it was a great decision), seeing people face-to-face instead of building false relationships on social media, and showing others how they can save money and do their own projects through my own work and content. As I read through this, I see that there are a lot of improvements I need to make. I am one who gets frustrated because my posts aren’t noticed very often and have been guilty of chasing likes on Instagram and have even sought ways to get better results, though I have never bought likes or promoted content. There have been many times I have not shared content on my website because it wasn’t complete or perfect with a few more added touches- that cost more money to complete. This relates to the section “personal spending is more visible”…thinking I can, or should be, spending, too. I want to be authentic and share what’s currently happening instead of thinking it’s never enough.
Roger P. says
Okay Karla slayyyyy