High inflation, rising interest rates and a rocky stock market have made American consumers feel insecure about their finances.

But if you really want to ramp up the insecurities — financial or otherwise — there is no place in the world quite like social media.

A recent survey from Bankrate.com showed that social media makes users feel negatively about money more than any other aspect of their lives, which is saying something when you consider the propensity social media has to make people feel bad about their job and career, their appearance, their relationships, their level of achievement in a favorite hobby and more.

 Where investors have always had to fight off the twin devils of fear and greed — plainly visible in the meme stock craze, where social media fans the flames on hot topics — users of social media, according to Bankrate’s work, also must overcome “jealousy, inadequacy, shame [and] anger” as anxieties and emotions around finances.


Moreover, there is some clear evidence — provided by another Bankrate survey — that social media leads to some lamentable financial decision-making.


This is not just about pursuing hot stocks on trading apps. Several studies have shown that the Reddit-obsessed retail stock traders who fueled meme stocks like GameStop and AMC have lost the gains they had made, and then some, since the pandemic began.

 That’s not much of a surprise, as those stock jockeys were trading on whims and hunches rather than fundamental and technical analysis.

But a combination of wishful thinking, keeping up with the Joneses, revenge spending for having been shuttered due to the pandemic and the invasive/intrusive nature of devices has nearly half of the social media users surveyed by Bankrate saying they’ve made an impulse purchase spurred by social media use, with nearly two-thirds of those purchasers saying they wished they hadn’t been so free with their money.

Consumers don’t need much impetus to go shopping; for all the complaints about higher prices, spending has not been curbed or curtailed.

The Department of Commerce has reported increases in spending, and while inflation may be more responsible for the uptick than increased buying, there is plenty of evidence that rising wages and a cache of pandemic savings, the proliferation of “buy now, pay later” options and more have consumers spending like they’re flush.

In fact, inflation might be an overlooked part of the motivation to spend, because in a world of rising prices, it’s tempting to pursue the “good deals.”


An Ipsos poll released this month asked consumers how inflation is changing their impulse buying habits and more than a third of the respondents who made an impulse purchase online cited the price as being too good to pass up. The same percentage of respondents said they wanted to treat themselves.

Social media speeds up that process; you don’t need to go to a website or a physical store to buy something that shows up in your feed, you can likely make your purchase without ever leaving the app.

Effectively, you’re in the store all the time, the perfect set-up for impulse buying and, later, regretted spending.

Consumers need to recognize the disconnect between people looking to make their best impression on social media and the reality of the experience.

I have looked at enough social media to know that in my peer group — not even venturing into the world of real or would-be celebrities — seemingly everyone I see online appears to be making more than I do, spending more than I spend and having more fun in general. (And I’m no sad sack; I live comfortably.)

That’s because people are showing the highlight reel of their life.


What I never see is what they had to do to finance the purchase or pay for their trip, the balance in their retirement accounts, how stressed they are about money and their future.

And I seldom get any glimpse into the potential conflicts of interest behind the pretty pictures.

Yes, we know how social media influencers work, but we don’t necessarily know the forces moving them; it’s easy to like or endorse a product, service or idea when you are paid to hold that opinion.

As consumers and investors, however, we’d like to know how the influencers are being influenced.

Likewise, track records matter, especially when it comes to online investing advice, but also to the quality of goods and services.

Stock jockeys in chatrooms don’t typically have verified, viewable proof of their past, long-lasting success. New gadgets and gizmos could be bolstered by fake reviews.


 It’s easy to talk a good game, even if you can’t play one.

Lacking track records and full disclosure of conflicts, consumers and investors should not be surprised when real life fails to live up to what we saw on our smartphone.

This is not a message to put down the phone or to get off the apps, though plenty of people find benefit to doing so and there is a lot of evidence that less is more when it comes to screen time.

Instead, to borrow from Eleanor Roosevelt, this is a reminder that “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

Don’t measure your progress or your ability to weather current conditions based on other people; stay centered on your ability to reach, achieve and maintain progress and financial goals.

Focus less on the outside world and more on yourself.

We all like and want nice things, but our financial decisions should not be swayed by our neighbor’s cars, our siblings’ vacations or our co-workers’ big-ticket purchases.

 By all means, get what you want or need, spend within your means and enjoy the money you work so hard for, but keep your personal goals in sight and measure your progress by them.

You are the most important influencer when it comes to your financial decisions; don’t give someone you see on your feed somewhere undue importance in your decisions.