favourites, general

Reference Groups and Facebook

I was recently browsing through updates on my Facebook homepage and there was an extraordinary amount of acquaintances and old “friends” who were purchasing homes, fancy cars, getting married at beautiful avenues, eating at lavish restaurants, and by all accounts enjoying the good life. I guess this is where I am supposed to say I am happy for them, but really I’m not that close to them so I really all I feel is a healthy dose of neutral indifference.

But I caught myself thinking about it, these people’s lives are on Facebook for me and others to get a glimpse into. Without Facebook or any equivalent I would have no idea what “wonderful” lives these people were living. Then it popped into my head.

“Keeping up with the Joneses”.

My parents drummed this into my head while I was growing up when my friends in elementary school got the pizza lunches, new shoes, the hottest toys and the nice clothes. I would complain to my parents who said they didn’t have the money and there was no sense of trying to keep up with the Joneses.

Keeping up with the Joneses was coined by a Harvard economist James Dusenberry who basically outlined that neighbors become a reference group and families compare themselves to their neighbors. Which isn’t really that bad, if you live in the same neighborhood, chances are your household income are probably in the same range.

I think I will a conversion with my parents, to see if they ever felt the need to keep up with the proverbial Joneses, based on my lack of fruit roll-ups and abundance of hand me down clothes while growing up, I would respectfully assume their old world/immigration mentality gave a big “F— the Joneses” attitude.

Fast forward to my own and younger generations, with Facebook, that reference group has expanded to people in other towns, cities, provinces, countries, pay grade, lifestyle, etc etc. You get my point.

I wonder what this means, as I slowly approach my 30’s and eye house purchases, cars, etc. Should I stay completely off Facebook as to avoid any unhealthy (financial or otherwise!) comparison? Or should I rely on my uncanny ability to not care (is this where I thank my parents?).

I am not a Pollyanna, so I’m going to assume not everyone in my generation is going to have this attitude. The Federal government has been increasingly worried about the high household debt levels of Canadians, so where should we cast a light on?

The Joneses and all their new Facebook friends.


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