I was watching something on YouTube when an ad for easy loans popped up. It was about a wife urging her husband to go on a holiday to a particularly popular destination because another couple they know have been there too. The husband reassures her, saying they’d secure a loan easily and go as well — an idea that’s unhealthy on multiple levels.
It may have been just an ad pushing an agenda, but then it struck me: this is the sentiment modern marketing latches on to for selling things we don’t need, to outdo people who don’t matter, at a cost we can’t afford.
Such is the reality of it that ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’ is a phrase that made it’s way into the dictionary. It’s defined as “try to emulate or not be outdone by one’s neighbours,” and is said to have its origins in Arthur (Pop) Momand’s popular comic strip, titled Keeping Up With The Joneses, that appeared in the New York City newspaper, New York Globe. Sure, this is an age-old habit, but thanks to the paparazzi that are our own social media accounts, it is all the more detrimental.
Why is it problematic? Well, where do I begin? First, it’s emulating what someone else has accomplished, and lacks authenticity. Second, it’s encouraging a loan mindset to experience the happiness that someone else derives from accomplishing their personal goals. This comic strip that was first published in 1913, still resonates as a universal phenomenon, and we constantly witness a slurry of identical filtered photos of holidays in exotic destinations, weddings attended and organised, designer outfits worn, and food and drink consumed doing the rounds, or ‘trending’ on social media, all at the same time. It’s no peer pressure, but rather a herd mentality stemming from an incurable virtual FOMO.
In his bestselling book Good Vibes, Good Life, Vex King writes: “Our ego always wants to feel significant and adored. It seeks instant gratification. It wants to feel more powerful than other people.” He also talks about how, “It’s the reason people buy things they don’t need — to impress people they don’t even care about. It’s the reason we become bitter about other people’s successes. It’s the reason greed exists, and why we’re constantly striving to outdo others. It prevents us from acting with love and understanding.”
It’s often natural for some people to feel this need to own things and have experiences to talk about to feel cooler, woke, or feel included in conversations without feeling ‘lesser’. Yes, toxic. But I have figured out a few questions that can help us snap out of this. Ask yourself: Why do I need this? Is it my own goal or am I emulating it to experience the happiness I see on someone else’s face or to feel accepted? Would owning or experiencing this mean compromising on my primary commitments and requirements?
When you find yourself itching for something that the Joneses have, consciously remembering that social media is perfectly curated highlights of someone’s life always helps. You and I both know that hardly anyone shares the behind-the-scenes, which could be unimaginably unattractive and shrouded in insecurity and lack of self-esteem.
Also, when you do experience such an urge, don’t be too self-critical or harsh on yourself. It’s only human to feel jealous, or seek validation, but recognise your patterns and witness your thoughts as they occur, process them, and then slowly work on them to a point where no post or news of anyone impacts you to act in a way that’s not true to your authentic self.
We all have a unique journey, and that means we must learn to discern and celebrate our individuality and authenticity, without having to follow someone else’s path and losing our way.
It’s a great idea to be inspired by someone’s hard work, their confidence, and use that as motivation to aim for a greater life. However, never be deluded into believing that, that which gives someone else joy, will fill your life with happiness too. Creating your own path is the only way to walk.