The Joneses.

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Online social media is responsible for a great many things: increased communication,  new economies, selfies… it has also made it easier to compare yourself to someone else in your network. Perhaps someone that you haven’t seen in a while, or someone that you might never have seen outside of high school before Facebook came along. Regardless, you can now see their lives through newsfeeds and know in an instant how they did on their last marathon or what their new house looks like. This competition is a driving force in our economy, and in our human nature. In fact, it is expected that 2014 will bring record amounts of consumer debt to the average Canadian — up to $28,853. Naturally, this is not all owed to competing with your friends, but the desire to show your status by what you own is a real issue for today’s society. How much does social media play into this?

“Keeping up with the Joneses” isn’t a new concept. According to Wikipedia, it was first popularized in 1913 through a comic strip, which ran for 26 years. This drive for rank or status is a fundamental part of human nature, something that is around from your childhood. Charles Kadushin notes in his book Understanding Social Networks that “a person need not even be directly aware of the Joneses or that he or she is competing with them or trying to emulate them” (65). Think about your own newsfeed. You log on, scroll through updates, see a new house, a baby, a car, a new diet… and subconsciously, you may begin to wish these for yourself. And why not? Your friends have them. Why not you?

Interestingly, most people emulate others within their “reach”. You may not consider yourself to be a leader, or a bragger, or even someone with something to be jealous of, but someone else may be viewing your life (and able to because of Facebook) with envious eyes. The grass is always greener, right?

Curiously, Kadushin points out that people do not want to reach higher, to the Beyonces and Brad Pitts, but rather to the neighbour with the new toy. Research from the University of Warwick in 2010 found that money only made people happier if others perceived that they made more. The actual balance in their bank account was irrelevant if your friends weren’t aware that you were making more. “Earning a million pounds a year appears to be not enough to make you happy if you know your friends all earn 2 million a year.”

With new online engagement methods, you can now see more “neighbours” than ever before, in an instant. Facebook says that the median number of friends in 2011 was 100 – it makes me wonder, how healthy is social networking for our minds — and our wallets?

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10 thoughts on “The Joneses.

  1. It’s too bad that we are so focused on competition. Especially when we have this wonderfully collaborative tool to use called the Internet. Most of the Jones folks I know are only too happy to share 🙂

  2. Hi Gillian,

    I’ve never considered the financial competition being present on Facebook, but now that you mention it I could see some of the things people share on Facebook to be “status-seeking” in nature. Posting photos of engagement rings, vacation photos, etc. is kind of like saying “Look what I’ve got or what I have”. It’s interesting to thing of this in terms of financials because it’s true these things that appear to be normal social networking have this status-seeking undertone.

    Ever seen the movie “The Joneses” ?

    Quite applicable for this week’s material. 🙂

    • I love when there is a movie to watch for school – thanks Nicole! And you’re right – I sometimes think before I post, why am I posting this aside from showing what I have/got/did? Some people, it seems like all they do is post for the sake of it.

  3. Great post – very interesting topic. I can see where this idea comes form – I certainly look at alot of people’s travel pics on Facebook and think, Gosh I wish I could go there. But, like in the ‘real world’ you need to keep it in check. What this has made me think of is the increased visibility and discussion of bullying in society. Not only has this topic exploded because of the internet, it’s even surfacing more and more in the workplace. Almost an opposite effect from the keeping up with the Joneses issue.

    • Interesting link, Jennifer, with the bullying. It’s true – it’s almost as if the more we share, the more we give to others as ammunition. What some people post as something they are proud of, others can use against them.

    • aynka

      That is why it is very important to be aware of the privacy settings of your posts and think before posting. By the way, many companies spy on potential hires in social media.
      Even a new business has emerged: now there are companies that remove all the information about you from the Internet, providing you with a new digital identity.

  4. Great post! The cartoon was spot on with depicting irrational behaviors people adopt when there is a contest for image. Social networking sites can really give people open territory to generate any story about themselves and their status they wish. Makes me think of how artificial selfies are. How many shots do you erase, what angle do you expressly use, how often do you change it? Are these shots true depictions of the self? Just another act of the “Joneses”!

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