How much does social media influence our investing?
We like to think that our social media accounts genuinely reflect our personalities and identities. If only this were true. Social media websites influence so much of our lives- the ads we see, the products we buy online. Social media sites even provide us with recommendations for who we should and should not be friends with.
Social media is such a huge part of living in the 21st century, and it would be comforting to believe that everything we see on these apps is the truth. However, the truth is that social media allows people to curate their public image and project only the best parts of their lives: the parties, expensive vacations, fancy dinners, and social justice campaigns they participate in.
Most people do not post about the harder parts of their lives because they are always striving to present themselves as healthy, perfect people. These apps function as rose-colored glasses for their users to view the world through. Social media enables people to create false identities.
New age vanity
America is one of the only countries in the world where having a front lawn is the norm. In our status-obsessed culture, the front lawn serves as the setting stage for suburban exhibitions of wealth and style. From October through January, driving through a suburban neighborhood in America is like taking a trip through an oversized art museum; neighbors transform their yards into decorative graveyards for Halloween, set up inflatable turkeys for Thanksgiving, and assemble giant caricatures of Santa Claus and his reindeer for Christmas.
Many towns even host lawn decorating contests around Christmastime. The obsession with perfectly manicured front lawns is an all-American phenomenon that perfectly demonstrates our culture's hyper fixation on wealth, status and aesthetics. And like they say, the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.
Social media apps like Instagram, Facebook and TikTok simply continue to feed into our cultural obsession with aesthetics and wealth. Instagram in particular has become the new front lawn of our generation.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, less than 50% of Millennials are homeowners. Moreover, 90.4% of Millennials use social media - the highest among any other generation Without front lawns to show off their wealth and status with, Millennials (and following closely in their wake, Generation Z) have used the internet as their stage to show off their best "true selves."
But how true is social media, really?
Our identities are definitely being influenced by the obsessive social media culture we live in.
The constant pressure to present the best of our lives on social media is causing massive stress and impacting how we see ourselves. According to the Pew Research Center, social media usage can contribute to increased levels of social stress. The constant pressure to churn out cookie-cutter photos and present ourselves as perfect really affects people's perceptions of themselves. They think that they are not good enough, or that other people's lives are simply
better than their own. This feeling of inferiority causes people to want to change who they are in hopes of living a more picturesque life.
Although we cannot change our identities (who we are, where we come from, who our families are) social pressure may cause us to feel like we need to present a different public image of ourselves than who we truly are. This problem can be observed most prominently in how celebrities and influencers present themselves on social media.
For instance, Kylie Jenner's photos are all edited. Ariana Grande's fake tan is pretty obvious in her photos (a fact that has actually gotten her called out by some for cultural appropriation). And James Charles, the popular YouTube star, openly admits to using the photo editing app FaceTune to change the shape of his face and body in his Instagram photos.
There is an entire culture of performance surrounding social media, and it is really hurting people. Instead of embracing their identities and growing to love themselves for who they really are, many people feel pressure to change themselves or even hide parts of their identity from their friends and family members.
Although it may be a long shot to try to change the American cultural obsession with wealth and status (which may not necessarily be American, because classism exists all around the world), we can take steps in our own lives to limit the negative influences of social media culture on our own mental health.
For instance, setting time limits for yourself for how long you spend on social media during the day can be helpful in reducing social media stress. Also, developing off-line hobbies and putting effort into building a lively social life for yourself can help reduce how much time you spend worrying about social media. When you are hanging out with friends and truly enjoying yourself, posting online will not even be on your mind. And, if all else fails, you can simply turn off your device or hide the apps on your phone. When something is out of sight, it is usually out of mind. And one of the perks about Instagram is that - unlike your neighbor's front lawn - you do not need to drive past it every day on your way to work.