The Financial Deception Caused by Social Media

Posted by Sheena Allen in InfluencersJuly 10, 2021(Last Updated December 27, 2022)4 min read
Key Takeaways
  • Users spend an average of two and a half hours per day on social media.
  • Celebrities, social media influencers, and others often display luxury lifestyles on their social media accounts.
  • Trying to keep up with the perception of wealth on social media has created trends such as buying designer clothing, taking photos for social media, and then returning the clothing items.
Are you ready to make some real money moves?

It is estimated that close to four billion people worldwide use social media to some degree. Whether it is Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, Snapchat, or another social media platform, the popularity of social networking sites continues to grow. Data shows that users spend an average of two and a half hours, 145 minutes to be exact, on social media every day.


Social media has its pros and cons. On the good side, it allows us to reconnect and stay in touch with old friends and find new ones. However, on the negative side, social media has caused financial deception, which could impact our personal finances. The perception and display of a luxury lifestyle by many social media users, especially celebrities and influencers, has caused others to want to "keep up with the Joneses" without knowing that the lifestyle being displayed on social media accounts is not always the real-life truth. 


person flexing money front of camera

When scrolling through social media platforms, we often see items or events that display someone living an exotic or "rich" lifestyle. Having an endless amount of money to spend on luxury is a lifestyle many desire. Unfortunately, sometimes observing others living a lavish lifestyle can lead to people comparing their financial status to others and wondering why they cannot afford the same lifestyle. 


Though it's easy to compare ourselves to others, there are two important things to keep in mind. First, social media is all about perception. People are only willing to show you what they want you to see. For example, they will post the one selfie they like the most as an Instagram post out of the one hundred selfies they took. Even the designer clothing and bags may not be as they appear. The number of people who borrow items or purchase expensive clothing to take pictures for social media but then return the items is indeed a thing. Second, it is crucial not to let social media distract us from our financial goals in real life. As the saying goes, "Don't be the person with a $1,000 bag with only $10 in it."


person flexing money


In the United States, 70% of Americans are financially unstable. While many factors contribute to such a high percentage, including systematic issues, unemployment, and low wages, another reason is due to people living above their means. Living a life they can't afford leads to the need to borrow funds to continue to pay for items they can't afford, which only creates more and more debt.


Recommended Read: These Popular Items Decrease in Value Over Time


There is a famous quote that states, "When you're 20, you care what everyone thinks, when you're 40 you stop caring what everyone thinks, when you're 60, you realize no one was ever thinking about you in the first place." This quote is significant because it explains that you don't have to impress anyone or make anyone happy besides yourself. No one should feel the need to put themselves in financially difficult situations to impress anyone else. 


Psychology Today did a study showing that 10% of our thoughts are about comparing ourselves to others, and social media doesn't help. Outside of the deception of social media itself, we must also note that we do not all come from generational wealth. Rapper Tee Grizzley talked about comparing himself to Kylie Jenner in his song "I Apologize." He raps, "Kylie made a billion, I'm failin' in life, I gotta be, she younger than me, so I'm 'posed to have more money logically, then I start thinkin' like that [stuff] don't apply to me. Kylie Jenner came from millions, I come from poverty." The lyrics explain why comparison can cause a lack of confidence in oneself. So whether you find yourself comparing your life to celebrities, social media influencers, or just some Instagram user on the explore page, always remember not everyone was given the same opportunities or choose to fake it for social media.


social media likes


Instead of looking at someone else's financial success negatively or as pressure to keep up with a similar lifestyle, learning to be grateful for the things you do have will help increase your financial success and set yourself a positive financial mindset. The only one who can control your success is you, and if you decide to focus on others, you will never reach your true potential. Rapper and businessman J. Cole explained why focusing on yourself is beneficial in his song, "a p p l y i n g . p r e s s u r e" from his album The Off-Season, rapping, "Envy keeps your pockets empty, so just focus on you."


Recommended Read (CapWay's Digits Decoded): J. Cole dropped plenty of money gems in "a p p l y i n g. p r e s s u r e" such as living paycheck to paycheck, stressing about paying bills, and how jealousy is a double-edged sword. Listen to the full song on our Money Music playlist available exclusively on Spotify


The Money Wrap-Up


Many people have fallen victim to the pressure or perception of social media, so if this includes you, you are not alone. The good news is that it is not too late to make a change to benefit your bank account. Suppose you decide to care less about what others think about you and focus more on what you feel about yourself and your financial future. In that case, you will be in a much better position in life–physically, mentally, and financially. 


You have every right to enjoy life and the money you have worked hard to earn. Just remember that there is real life, and then there is social media. Your financial goals are real life. 

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