musings

on social media: a help or hindrance on a debt free journey?

Believe it or not, I remember a time without social media. I still remember the text I got from my old uni pal asking me to sign up to Facebook. After googling it a bit, I thought that the design of Facebook looked so crap, she couldn’t possibly mean that & texted her asking if she meant Face Party?? No, she definitely meant Facebook and not Face Party, a random dating site and forerunner of Tinder, I’m sure.

Anyway, 10 years after signing up for Facebook, I no longer have an account (for various reasons), although I’m on Twitter which is good for my line of work and I have both a personal and blog Instagram.

I love Instagram. I really enjoy the people I follow, seeing how other people live and seeing how people are working towards their goals. I obviously follow a lot of FIRE accounts but I also follow a lot of people in the debt free community (#DFC). I don’t have any debt (that’ll all change next year when we hopefully buy a house!) but I find the attitude and drive of people in the DFC really inspiring and also learn a thing or two about saving and deals.

But is Instagram as great as I think?

Spoiler: No.

There are great things about it but there’s also some undercurrents of negativity and of strain I think that it puts on people to always post a certain way to justify and defend their position. I often see so much justification of people’s decisions that it baffles me why people think they need to justify themselves to a bunch of strangers on the internet?

The internet trolls certainly have a lot to say & I wish everyone was strong enough to be like water off a ducks back with them because there are glimmers of positivity with social media.

positives

There are plenty of positives for social media and I don’t need to go into them in depth, but some of the ones I see are:

  1. Can help to keep you accountable
  2. It provides a support network which you might not have in everyday life
  3. Sparks new ideas for things

negatives

The darker, more scarier side of social media is where it can provide negative emotions or feelings of dejection. The phrase “comparison is the thief of joy” rings true when thinking about this.

comparison of others journeys

We’re only human and all have feelings of envy but this can be amplified in the social media sphere. People have full autonomy over what they post and so can curate posts that tell a particular story or present their life in a way they want to be perceived.

This doesn’t help when you’re in the depths of your debt journey and whilst I do acknowledge there’s a degree of encouragement that can be gleaned from other people’s journey, I think there’s a darker side where you see people on theirs own debt free journey doing better than you or paying down debt faster, which can lead to feelings of dejection about your own situation and how long you might have to go in your own journey.

judgement/justification of actions

I’ve noticed a couple of common scenarios on Insta when it comes to people falling off kilter slightly with their goals. An account will go quiet and then a couple of months later will post that they’ve had a rough couple of months, fallen off the bandwagon, perhaps increased their debt total but are back with a new plan. It generally feels quite abashed in tone.

The other, will almost be teeming with exasperation and frustration. A bad month, an unexpected expense has pushed the carefully tracked-to-the-penny budget into a tailspin and they just feel overwhelmed because they’re working so hard to drive that debt down and circumstances can work against them.

In these scenarios, I always feel like people feel like they need to justify to everyone their actions. And maybe what they’re actually doing is justifying their actions to themselves, writing it all out to work through it themselves. But if it’s the former, that is frustrating in itself – the fact that people feel the need to justify their actions to strangers on the internet.

leaving people be (too much to hope for?)

No-one should really have an opinion on how others live their lives (oh, what a wish!) and some people would argue that if you’re putting your life online, then you need to be OK with some criticism but bullshit to that. We should seek to raise people up and encourage, not tear them down to make themselves feel better. People know they’ve got themselves in the shit and are trying their hardest to get out of it. It’s an incredibly brave thing, to own up to a debt total and put it out there for all to see. These people are serious about improving their situation and encouragement is going to go a lot further to lift them up and improve their situation than nitpicking and shaming their debt.

Social media in general can have incredibly damaging effects on mental health and it can be a toxic place, making you feel like a piece of shit when all you see are these so-called perfect lives, full of exotic travel, perfect houses and families and the latest car/fashion accessory or designer label. On balance, for me, it’s an OK place to be because I can see through the bullshit and am thankfully not a materialistic person. If you take it for what it’s worth – generally just another place for people to show off – and wade through the crap to find an encouraging and uplifting community then all’s the better.

So, I can’t quite work it out. There’s positives and negatives with Insta and the DFC particularly. I don’t want people to think they need to justify themselves to anyone or feel ashamed or embarrassed at having to readjust their savings plans. But on the flip side, people are so motivating and supportive of others & I read so many happy stories of people being inspired & paying off their debt from other’s success stories that I don’t quite want to write it off as a negative space. I just hope people can take it for what it is & use it to lift them up, not tear themselves down.

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