The End of “Social Indifference”?

By March 1, 2016 January 10th, 2019 No Comments

Right now, my Facebook feed is percolating with the usual mashup of dog pictures, career moves, funny cat videos, “fabulous weekend” this, “new kitchen” that, etc.  It as though no one on Facebook has leaking gutters, bad weekends, bratty, underachieving kids, or other encounters with reality.

But that’s Facebook, I guess:  billions of people, airbrushed.

We didn’t need research to confirm this, but social media is also adding new dynamics to “keeping up with the Joneses,” mainly, making it more expensive and dangerous than ever. Odds are (still) that if you try to keep up, you and the Joneses will all go broke, since the Joneses all have their own Joneses, too. Twas ever thus. But it’s even harder to keep up when the Joneses just hit Facebook with pictures of their new, pro-style Bosch gas range.

Not to pick on Millennials again, but they are the poster kids for failing at what economists call “social indifference,”  which is not caring what anyone thinks about your fab life. Once upon a time, it was good enough to drink a cup of coffee. Now, it’s self-expression: a $3.83, 443-calorie Frappuccino, and a few seconds broadcasting it to Facebook and Twitter so everyone knows about your discerning taste in caffeine. And then there are the vacations, concerts, etc. The list goes on.

One of the upshots of my last post was that it’s okay to be broke and to struggle, especially when you’re starting out and start saving. In fact, it’s dignified and it will serve you well. But don’t forget the corollary: the way you spend and save when you’re 25 years old drives how much of it you will have when you’re 40 (as it should).

Bernie Sanders thinks it’s unfair for someone who’s worked crappy jobs and suffered the slings and arrows, long commutes, long hours, bad bosses, etc. that money savers contend with every day to have a lot more money than the same person who couldn’t bear the long commute, doesn’t save, and lives “hand to mouth” (to say nothing of those who actually distinguish between being able to pay for something and actually afford it).

Distinctions like these seem almost quaint by current standards.  In fact, Sanders is running for president on the basic premise that it’s okay to take from the first person to make life easier for the second.   That’s nonsense.