LIFESTYLE
28/06/2018 04:40 SAST | Updated 28/06/2018 04:40 SAST

Keeping Up With Social Media Can Land You In Huge Debt

'If social media drives the type of behaviour that you do not want for yourself, then maybe social media is not for you.'

tommaso79 via Getty Images

The relationship between social media influence and debt cannot be underplayed.

This came out of a panel discussion about savings at the launch of National Savings Month, July, in Sandton on Wednesday.

One of the biggest and most damaging things is the misrepresentation of money, access and wealth on social media, said Gerald Mwandiambira, acting chief executive of the South African Savings Institute.

Mwandiambira challenged particularly prominent people on social media to be more responsible with the messages they communicate around money and success.

"We want responsible broadcasting on social media," he said, "and if we have more social media responsibility and sensitivity, we are going to start going in the right direction. Otherwise, people will keep thinking that everything they see is reality."

In a recent Instagram trend under the hashtag thegramsham, former YoTV presenter and actor Lumko Johnson shared with his followers how a few years ago he irresponsibly blew R30,000 in one weekend, to portray a certain lifestyle on the social media network.

"I spent all day recalling what I'd spent all that money on, how I'm going to cover my bills and why the f**k was I so irresponsible? I later found out why: I wanted to fit into a realm and level I hadn't reached yet ... I wanted to showcase a 'lifestyle' on my gram. I wanted those friends to think I lived that way daily," he wrote on Instagram.

Imagine starting your weekend with over 30K in your bank account then waking up Monday morning with this bank balance? Here's a little story I hope will inspire someone: About 5 or 6yrs ago I was one of the main anchors of the country's biggest live teen variety show. At this time I was also main cast in a prime time weekly drama series that aired on the national broadcaster, the "makings of a teen idol" as my PR bio would read if I were Selena Gomez or Miley 😜. My personal life seemed to flourish as well, I'd just purchased my 1st car, acquired a bond towards a loft apartment in one of JHB's northern suburbs, well on my trajectory towards success. I made a few friends in showbizz whom I loved because they made me feel famous, like I'm some kind of big deal. I was deeply insecure and a people pleaser - yeah, strange right? Me? INSECURE?! One random afternoon a payment of over 30K came into my bank account from a random job, common practice in this here business, and the first thing I did was call up a few friends. Three of us linked up that weekend living the time of our lives with bottles of bubbly, clubs, hotels and strippers. Monday morning I had to report to set and as I swiped at the service station this was the notification text of my bank balance. I spent all day recalling what I'd spent all that money on, how I'm going to cover my bills and why the fuck was I so irresponsible? I later found out why: I wanted to fit into a realm and level I hadn't reached yet, I let a bunch of hype words get to my head, I wanted to showcase a "lifestyle" on my gram, I wanted those friends to think I lived that way daily. It's years later, I've kept this SMS as motivation to get up in the morning, as the reason I will work 3 jobs at a time, as a reminder to stay in my lane and walk at my pace because I will never have R22 left in my bank account trying to impress and be liked. This app is but a granule of our realities, shall I remind you that what glitters isn't always gold. PS: I'm a lot older and wiser now, I still like nice things, I have a little more than R22 in my account for this weekend- don't worry😂🤷🏽‍♂️ #HappyYouthDay #Thegramsham

A post shared by 🎬🎥🎭❤️ (@lumkojohnson) on

People need to realise that Instagram might not clearly capture people's lives, pointed out Dr Lesego Rametsi, group head of health and wellness at the Barclays Africa Group.

She encouraged South Africans on social media to allow their value systems to guide them, instead of other people's lives and appearance of "success".

If social media drives the type of behaviour that you do not want for yourself, then maybe social media is not for you.

"We all live and die by our values, so if you know what your value system is, you have to be true to yourself. If social media drives the type of behaviour that you do not want for yourself, then maybe social media is not for you," said Rametsi.

Wealth coach Samke Mhlongo pointed out the need to understand why people equate success with material acquisitions and why some feel the need to show it off, saying that it might be influenced by more than social media envy.

"We need to understand why they need to be seen in a Mercedes Benz," said Mhlongo. "If you don't understand why your client needs to be seen in that car, you can't possibly assist them."

The challenge she shared was about redesigning the narrative around success. "How can we send the same message if you are successful, in a way that is financially sustainable?"

According to Mhlongo, one of the main challenges is a lack of patience and prioritisation. "It's about the efficient allocation of limited resources, and the trade-off — to say I'd rather have this than that but people want to have this and that (at the same time) — that's where the problem lies."

The task ahead, therefore, will be to understand people's aspirations and make sure that they achieve them in the most responsible way, concluded Rametsi, and a timeline not measured by what people see on social media.

And just in case you've found yourself trying to keep up with social media representations of success, here are some golden rules that may help you avoid additional debt:

1. Limit social media if you can't control the envy, or stay away.

2. Don't spend on a whim, or on items for which you haven't budgeted.

3. Say no, and mean it.