The things you buy are influenced by many things around you. One of those things is people. Of those people, there are your friends, those you know from your religious affiliation, your co-workers, your neighbors and acquaintences. In today's world with social networking, you have even more contact with them than ever, thereby having them influence you to an even greater extent.
Through research at Harvard, Nicholas Christakis and James Fowler were able to show that social networking has a tremendous impact on our behaviors, whether it be our eating habits, our emotional state, our financial well being, or anything in between. Social networking actually proliferates the number of people that influence us because we're obviously connected to and influenced by the people from the groups mentioned in the opening paragraph, but we're also influenced by their connections, and then their connections. So, whether we realize it or not, people at two or three degrees of separation on Facebook and Twitter are influencing our behavior as well. We probably don't even know the majority of them.
We See More Than We Realize In Our Surroundings
While we're mostly influenced by the people in our immediate network, we see more of what they're doing: taking exotic vacations, buying really cool cars, moving into huge mansions in ideal neighborhoods and eating in fantastic restaurants. Not only that, today people are making things public that were considered taboo in the not too distant past. Worse, when money is the topic, we usually see behaviors that are bad influencers. We rationalize, if they can do it, then so can I.
What You Can Do About That "Keep Up With the Joneses" Feeling
Try these simple measures:
- Strengthen the connections of those you believe to be a good influence.
- Identify the best financial role models and create a "financial friends network."
- Share savings goals and any financial guidance with these friends in your "financial friends network."
- Hide status updates from those you believe to be bad financial influencers.
Who do you think influences you the most when it comes to spending money?