Social networks are just theater. Your personal finances are the next act


Social media has opened up all of us to finances.

Sarah Tew / CNET

Conversations about money were always tricky when I was growing up. Even sensitive topics like how you manage your finances, let alone something as personal as your salary, were off limits. It was understood that you did not bring the matter up to anyone other than your immediate family.

Things have changed. Social media has broken old taboos, overturning the subject of money. Rather than being taboo, wealth should be posted on Instagram, shared on Venmo, or excruciatingly detailed on the WallStreetBets subreddit.

It is a dynamic that has put some people, often celebrities, in difficulty. Think of Ellen DeGeneres describing endurance quarantine in his mansion like “being in jail. “These controversies are a strong indication that money is still a delicate subject, especially given the vast wealth gap in our society.

But there is no indication that the tendency to publicly display your wealth is slowing down. More than ever, people are comfortable sharing the details of their finances. The big paychecks, the bets that pay off, and the investments that go wrong are all posted online for everyone to see.

Financial exhibitionism is a natural extension of how social media has opened windows to our lives. We’ve been prompted to share more and more detail, and we are. But while more transparency around money is generally a good thing, turning our transactions and personal finances into theater could have damaging consequences. The spectacle of wealth creates an ideal unattainable for some, including the individual who made the job.

“If you present yourself as a successful investor, for example, you may feel compelled to continue to achieve it,” said Lars Perner, associate professor of clinical marketing at the University of Southern California. Conversely, he added, seeing other people’s threads full of success stories could be a source of anxiety, causing a desire to keep pace.

There is a danger in blurring these lines between reality and performance. CNET staff reporter Erin Carson spoke about the mental toll it takes when the image you project on social media doesn’t match your real self. This is especially dangerous when it comes to the perception of an affluent lifestyle.

Half of all social media posts are about sharing photos, videos, and other information that showcase the ideal version of yourself, whether as a generous activist, wine lover, or wealthy jet set. Influencers make it their job.

These messages often elicit angry reactions. Over the past year, celebrity after celebrity after celebrity has gotten into trouble for being deaf or unresponsive during a pandemic that has crippled the economy and left millions unemployed.

But this lavish social media lifestyle is appealing to many looking to get rich, leading them to the stock market. When it comes to investing, you can find dozens of stories of people making huge profits in the WallStreetBets section of Reddit. Even massive declines are something to be celebrated in perverse ways like “porn loss“, another form of personal finance theater.

This common aspect – the sharing of gains and losses – is one of the reasons more and more people are turning to stock trading apps like Robinhood, which have helped fuel the rise in meme stocks. as GameStop and AMC.

This is also one of the reasons Robinhood fell into hot water, as CNET senior reporter Richard Nieva explained in his article on the controversial trading platform. The social element energizes you via Reddit posts, adding fuel to the drive to make wild bets.

“Treating this like a game and attracting young, inexperienced customers to do more and more transactions is not only unethical, but also falls short of the standards we demand in Massachusetts,” said the Commonwealth Secretary William Galvin. said in December after Massachusetts sued the company.

Indeed, that pressure to keep publishing success stories can lead to increasingly risky bets, USC’s Perner said.

Even simple transactions – groceries or beers – have been made social through the Venmo payment app. By default, it makes your transactions, which include descriptions and emoji, public for anyone to see.

Venmo’s open style and ubiquity grabbed the headlines. President Joe Biden’s friend list was accessible to everyone, a potential security nightmare. Florida Representative Matt Gaetz made payments – visible in the app – to a Florida politician who pleaded guilty last month to federal charges, including sex trafficking.

As CNET reporter Laura Hautala notes in her story on Venmo, that social dynamic, and the cute emoji language that proliferates in all of our Venmo feeds, is what keeps people coming back.

So while these public payments may get you in trouble, you will still continue to make them.

Meanwhile, I’m still hesitant to tell my mom how much I’m making.

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Shawn Beecher

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