Is social media affecting our financial health?

Published: February 18, 2022 at 6:00 am

Is money the root of all evil or social media is giving it tough competition? While social media has unlocked a world of possibilities, made information more accessible than ever, and is bread and butter for a lot of us, it has also made impulsive shopping popular. The convenience comes at a premium and the dark side of social media is making many of us financially ill.

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Have you ever wondered why your parents didn’t need so many things as you do today? Sure, the variety has increased and so has the disposable wealth, but one major factor is the exposure to all the options. Going to a shop to have the shopkeeper show 10 different things and then choosing one was a lot more frugal than having the entire capitalistic empire on your fingertips. And, of course, they didn’t have Facebook or Instagram.


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The growth of social media:

Social media has seen phenomenal growth over the past few years. About a decade ago, there were barely a few niche websites, and now we are sailing in a flood of social media giants. One of the major sources of revenue for these websites is advertisements. However, ads are not the only way in which social media makes you overspend. With more than half the world online, the impact of social media is huge.

A lot has been said and written about the impact of social media on school grades, mental health, physical health, time management, etc. However, personal finance is one of the most-impacted aspects.

Here is how it affects your financial health:

Constant Ad targeting: Last week I appreciated a friend’s winter boots and the next moment, boots were all over my feed. Social media ad targeting has become so accurate and relevant it is scary. Social networking platforms target these advertisements in a way that tempts consumers when they are the most vulnerable.

They have the power to quickly convert window shoppers to buyers. Most content that you see on your newsfeed is targeted with the intent of selling to you. The targeting is based on your interests, the type of content you interact with, and where you click. Mindlessly scrolling through social media can motivate you to buy things that you just like but don’t need. This leads to overspending.

Negative impression on recruiters:

Just like you, recruiters are also on all social media channels and not just limited to LinkedIn. Whether or not you believe it, they also assess your social media presence just like you do when you meet someone that intrigues you. This is a lesser-known fact that your social media presence and oversharing may hurt your prospects of getting hired.

According to a recent survey by career builder, over 50% of employers admitted not hiring candidates because of the content they shared on social media.

There is a fine line here between being available online to prove your credibility and oversharing. When you post content that a recruiter finds objectionable, you miss the chance of getting hired and thus your financial health takes a hit.

If you are hunting for jobs, make sure that your social media accounts are private, either hide or delete posts that may offend someone, and hide old accounts that you may not be using anymore. Some social media channels may be your way to show your personal side and that’s ok; just make sure that you conceal or refrain from posting stuff that may invoke strong opinions or attract judgment.

Insecurities and the urge to show off: Have you come across the meme in which Mark Zuckerberg is wearing a simple tee and jeans but some college guy is seen sporting a tuxedo, posing super-rich. That is how most of us think we can get rich; by spending and thinking, we are moving towards being rich.

The flaunt posts on social media do not help. Social media is the source of most insecurities and the constant exposure to seemingly perfect pictures and illusions leads to poor financial decisions. It is a vicious circle, where you look at riches that others flaunt, wish to match up, buy in the fear of missing out and then flaunt it for others to follow suit.

As the cycle continues, you go on harming your financial well-being. Credit card companies further play on these insecurities and make you believe that you can afford the lifestyle you fancy. This way you are forever stuck in the debt cycle and continue paying interest and fees.

Healthcare costs: The impact of social media on your mental health doesn’t stay limited to overspending due to the fear of missing out or insecurities. It can cause serious damage to your mental health. It is thus important to be mindful of your social media browsing habits so the healthcare costs do not add up.

Remember, your way to wealth is through judicious financial planning and social media may hurt those prospects. You must know that social media is a world full of fantasy and reality is a lot more than the fake world. Stay mindful of your social media browsing habits and take care of your financial health.

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Pattabiraman editor freefincalDr M. Pattabiraman(PhD) is the founder, managing editor and primary author of freefincal. He is an associate professor at the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras. He has over nine years of experience publishing news analysis, research and financial product development. Connect with him via Twitter or Linkedin or YouTube. Pattabiraman has co-authored three print books: (1) You can be rich too with goal-based investing (CNBC TV18) for DIY investors. (2) Gamechanger for young earners. (3) Chinchu Gets a Superpower! for kids. He has also written seven other free e-books on various money management topics. He is a patron and co-founder of “Fee-only India,” an organisation for promoting unbiased, commission-free investment advice.
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Most investor problems can be traced to a lack of informed decision making. We have all made bad decisions and money mistakes when we started earning and spent years undoing these mistakes. Why should our children go through the same pain? What is this book about? As parents, if we had to groom one ability in our children that is key not only to money management and investing but for any aspect of life, what would it be? My answer: Sound Decision Making. So in this book, we meet Chinchu, who is about to turn 10. What he wants for his birthday and how his parent’s plan for it and teach him several key ideas of decision making and money management is the narrative. What readers say!
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