Social Media: The Negative Feedback Loop

Social media is a strange beast.  It is full of pictures of family and friends sat in nice cars with sunglasses on or photos of a cocktail, their gnarled feet and a stretch of empty sand.  It can be a vacuous place for empty ‘hashtags’ and even emptier quotes about living life to the full or having no regrets.

It seems to actively encourage mindless consumption and helps to push the apparent responsibility for things not going the way we want to the universe in general.  Not to mention it can be a massive time-suck that adds very little value.

Wouldn’t it be nice if, just for one day, we as a group of financially responsible individuals actually said what we were thinking.

Facebook house

What people tend to say:  That’s amazing news, you so deserve it!

What people should say:  You bellend.  You don’t have to take the maximum mortgage the bank will offer you, just because you can.  You’re going to be tied into working for far more years than you need, just to pay for additional space that you won’t even use.  Enjoy your hour long commute each way.

Facebook car

What we tend to say:  You work so hard and you’re an amazing person, why not treat yourself.  You’ll have to take me for a spin.  ROFL.

What we should say:  Well done for using a line of credit to make an expensive item even more expensive.  I personally congratulate you for suffering heavily from the effects of depreciation, buying a car with more torque than you will ever need and choosing a model that has a top speed you’ll never even reach.  Please don’t forget to update me when you are sitting in traffic in your £35k armchair.

Facebook holiday

What we tend to say:  OMG.  I’m well Jel!!  Enjoy the rest and the sunshine.  It’s raining and 12 degrees at the moment here, you lucky thing.

What we should say:  Christ on a bike, if you like the sun so much, move somewhere sunny.  It’s not difficult.  California, Florida, the Middle East, Australia, Spain or Portugal maybe.  Do you hate your job that much, that you need to sit on some sand for a week to recover?  With a little bit of research you could spend 3 months exploring the Far East on the same amount of money you just spent on a week in a resort getting served drinks like some inbred Oligarch. #Gimpoid

Facebook bank

What we tend to say:  Oh no!  That’s so unfair!  Why do they always pick on the little people!?  All they care about it profits and keeping the rich rich.  You should sue them.

What we should say:  What, you don’t even have a month or two of savings in cash to help with situations like this?  What in the holy hell are you doing flying round the world for holidays and buying houses and cars?  Hate to say it to you, but the house and the car aren’t yours.  They are the banks, at least until you’ve paid off the loans.  Sadly, they didn’t pick on you.  You picked on yourself by choosing to take out the loans.

Facebook, or any social media platform, provides us with an instant feedback loop.  Which so many people seem to use to promote the selected best parts of their life or the bits that they feel are unfair.

So the mindless consumer can get an instant group pat on the back for what is, in reality, a stupid decision, like buying a new car or a house that is too large and will take decades to pay off.

And they can get confirmation from the ether that life really has treated them unfairly, because lets be honest, who is publicly going to say that it’s partially their own fault and that with a few small tweaks the outcome would be completely different.

If poor old Mr Z was exclaim on Facebook about his savings rate or growing NetWorth it would probably get one solitary ‘like’ from his mother whilst the rest of his Facebook friends remarked what a tight bastard he was behind his back.  Saving and investing for our future is a far more responsible thing to be celebrating than buying shit.  Culturally the subject is taboo, personal finance, NetWorth and Savings Rates are rarely mentioned in the public domain.

This all compounds to make mindless consumption appear to be the normal path to follow, it’s all too easy to march to the tune of the status quo, buy shiny new things and complain how your generation is being squeezed.  Positive feedback is much louder on this path, even if it is wrong.

The saver doesn’t receive public affirmations of approval, only quiet ones from partners or very close friends and family.  When the markets head south they don’t complain loudly, they steeple their hands under their chin and figure out how they are going to take advantage of this opportunity.  When their investments breach the next milestone there is no thinly disguised social media announcement seeking attention, rather a small air punch, a CTRL+S to save LegendaryNetWorth.xls and a Heel Click of Celebration on the way to the kitchen to cook dinner (Chicken Bhuna, if you’re asking).

I told a good friend recently that I had been saving over 50% of my income for a couple of years now, with the intention of taking some time off work in the future, perhaps even indefinitely.  He regarded me quietly for a few moments and then nodded sagely, the quiet nod of approval far louder in it’s sincerity than ten thousand Facebook likes.  We then discussed my plan of achieving this goal, to which he seemed genuinely interested and accepting.

Rest assured, in ten or so years time when my savings have grown to the point of work becoming optional I won’t be looking to Facebook, or whatever is around then, for approval.  (Ok, maybe I’ll post something like “Time to retire at 44.  #YOLO” and then disappear into the ether again).  I’m not against social media, it needs to develop towards something more useful to it’s users than it’s current form than it’s current preying on our insecurities form.  Sharing useful/insightful information or organising events.

In a time where we are so interconnected it can be easy to forget there’s more going on than what people shout about on your social media feeds.  There’s plenty of us actively saving towards Financial Independence, but we are a quiet bunch, and certainly not shouting about it (other than on blogs perhaps 😉 ).

It requires an active step to remove yourself from the negative feedback loop that is social media in it’s current form, to join the quieter world of Financial Independence.  Step on in, the water is lovely.

Spend Less, Save More & Escape the Horde.

Mr Z

25 thoughts on “Social Media: The Negative Feedback Loop

  1. The Rhino

    Womblin’ wise words TFZ. One top tip I can offer is ditch the smartphone and get a £5 nokia

    Its like ditching the TV but on steroids – it will change your life

    But seriously, chicken bhuna, surely lamb?

    1. Mr Zombie Post author

      I am getting tempted. My phone contract is up this month and so it’s on to a SIM only contract…when the phone dies a Nokia or something similar might be the way to go.

      Haha – It’s a tough situation I find myself in as the cook of the house. I would go for lamb, but Mrs Z hates lamb. I like chicken. Therefore we have chicken. I miss lamb!

  2. The Big Monkey

    Well put Mr Z.

    My good lady drives a 2002 Ford. She’s a biggish dog at work. Like you (and me), she wants to escape. Her coworkers keep asking when she’s going to buy a new car, because “they smell to nice”? WTF, buy a new car because it “smells nice”? I just don’t get it.

    We are 18 month s away from FI with a bit of luck, all because we managed to free ourselves from the stupidity of mindless consumption. I might take up some Facebooking, Twatting etc when I’m drinking a beer on a sunny afternoon somewhere after emerging from my bed when I naturally woke up.

    There is one plus to all of this mindless consumption. Wages keep going up, as people feel that they are struggling / hard done by.

    Keep up the good work Mr Z.

    1. Mr Zombie Post author

      Hello BM,

      Hahaha – I don’t get the new car smell thing. At all. Just chuck a smelly in your car if you like it so much!

      Wow, 18 months, good work! Must be getting twitchy now? How long has the journey been?

      Thanks 🙂

  3. maggie

    laughed at the tight git behind your back comment- my siblings frequently tell me I still have my holy communion money hidden under the bed and wear the clothes I had on 10 years ago.

  4. London Rob

    Hi Mr. Z,

    You are spot on! I gave up on FB some time ago (I am still on it to keep in touch with people, but thats about it!) and so rarely post – its full of people shouting and putting up things that I frankly dont care about! I find it more fun when you have people posting holiday pics thinking to myself “I know you worked hard all year for that, its wiped out your savings and you are back to square one. In another X years… I will be able to do that every year.. without working MUAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA”
    Tough going and as you say drives the negative loop of others trying to compete, in even more of the keeping up with the Jones.

    Just accept that there will ALWAYS be someone with more money / success (in your definition, not theirs) / bigger / house than you – question is… do you actually care?

    1. Mr Zombie Post author

      Hi LR,

      Yeah, I still find it useful for events…and yeah, maybe a bit of smug laughter too 😉

      Bang on, there’s always someone with more. It’s all about finding enough and finding happiness in sustainability and relative minimalism. 😀

  5. theFIREstarter

    Haha, that was MEGALOLZ Mr Z! 🙂

    I don’t go on SM much nowadays but it does make me laugh when I see certain people and how they present their lives on there, and you know well the real story is different. It’s actually pretty sad when you think about it though. Rather than dwell on that I just log off and get on with my life though!

    “I’m not against social media, it needs to develop towards something more useful to it’s users than it’s current form than it’s current preying on our insecurities form. Sharing useful/insightful information or organising events.”

    In defence of Facebook in particular (and I think that is the worst offender of all the ailments that you describe above), it has had a lot of social good when you consider it world wide. Think of all the revolutions it has sparked, the Arab spring and all that. It is giving free speech and spreading democracy to people that have not had that before. Twitter as well but I think FB is probably the main driver of all that.

    On a less grandiose note, you can get local buying/selling groups which are much easier to sell stuff on than eBay (and for free), and I can imagine there are countless other grass roots social groups and events have been organised on there. Thinking food sharing co-ops, toy sharing, even tool sharing groups, and so forth, not to mention actual charity stuff. If you want to find that sort of thing you have to go out of your way and wade through the shite storm of vacuous updates and search for it*

    In short, it’s not the tool that is to blame, it’s the users or rather the culture of the users in this country or our local social groups.

    *Full discolure – Apart from the local selling groups, I can’t be bothered with it, but I do know these sort of things are definitely out there! And I too generally hate what social media in this country and in my demographic has been used for so I use it very rarely nowadays.

    1. Mr Zombie Post author

      Haha, thanks TFS 😀

      There is actually quite a few community groups set up in my area that are supposed to be very good, especially for people with young children. I guess it’s about controlling your use of SM and not turning it into some abhorrent time-suck from the moment you wake until the moment you shut your eyes. Bleak!

  6. weenie

    I tried to follow ‘Bub Logan’ but can’t find him on Twitter! 😉

    I have to kinda disagree with you on the ‘sitting in sand in the sun’ holiday thing – whilst I like living in rainy old Blighty, I do like to get away to get some sun. If we manage to get a summer this year, then I may not feel the need to get away!

    TFS has hit the nail on the head – it’s not social media that’s to blame but the users who post inane stuff about their unexciting lives. Most of my friends don’t post that crap (any more), those who still do, I’ve unsubscribed so I don’t have to see it.

    Social media enables me to communicate (for free) with my family on the other side of the world. Even my mum is on whatsapp!

    I don’t post very often, special occasions/events etc, certainly not to brag about stuff I’ve bought, definitely not holiday pics while I’m away to advertise the fact that my house is empty and ABSOLUTELY NOT about what my savings rate is!

    “Time to retire at 44. #YOLO”

    I would love to see this! 🙂

    1. Mr Zombie Post author

      Haha, Bub Logan is a combination of names from some zombie films 😉

      The near zero marginal cost of social media is amazing, got a device and a connection and you’re good to go!

      I’ll do an ER post when it’s time if you do!

  7. Third Income

    By saying ‘of course you deserve it’ what you’re saying is, we’re in the same social circle, so I deserve it too. If you’re presently in rainy old Britain you’ll be getting your time away later and you’re almost compelled to over pay for an expensive break because that’s what everyone is doing, and so it goes with the wisdom of group-think. But not only do we ‘deserve’ it (and by it I mean something beyond our means rather than a general break from work, which is definitely healthy!), but there is an expectation that everyone should have equally expensive habits and if you’re not then you don’t belong in the same social circle, you’re a failure and generally a bad person, so you have to keep up with the Jones’. This reinforcement of the feedback loop makes it all the more pernicious as no one calls it out as BS or the negative trait it is.

    1. Mr Zombie Post author

      Ohhh yes, a break from work is healthy. Bizarrely, if you took a few months of work just to relax people would assume you’d lost your edge. Not realising that you are simply sharpening your Financial Independence gaze!

      It’s just so much harder to spot the few that are outside of these trends or norms as they are normally the quieter ones…which is a shame as they are doing far more interesting and motivational things. Like saving and taking early retirement 🙂

  8. ZJ Thorne

    There are many reasons that my journey to financial freedom is happening under a pseudonym. One of them is not needing likes. I love the blogging community because we learn from and support one another, but, so far for me, no body minds if I’m succeeding. They want everyone to do well. It’s glorious.

  9. Pellrider

    Yes, we all tend to hide ourselves while taking the trip to financial independence. Money facts has to be hidden in our society. I am not sure why, but that is the culture all over the world. The people who have a lot of real money tend to complain about not having money and the people who don’t have enough boast about how they have this and that items (mostly consumer stuff).

    1. Mr Zombie Post author

      I do sometimes wonder if people will put it together and figure me out. Hmmm, small house, small car, cycles to work, no expensive clothes or gadgets…it’s either financial independence or an expensive exotic money burning habit like snorting cocaine off baby rhinos.

      1. Organised Redhead

        Ha ha this comment made me chuckle. The thing is though…for someone to suspect it’s financial independence you’re going for, they’d actually have to be aware that the possibility of financial independence exists for everyone. I think most people go through their lives utterly oblivious of this fact (I certainly did until about 6 months ago…wish I’d had my epiphany sooner!)

  10. Steve

    Great post! Reminded me of a comment on the MMM forums:

    > Anyone ever get jealous of things they see on FB?

    No, I feel bad for everybody. Just got a new job? Couldn’t hack it at the old job. Just got a new car? Will never retire, and possibly small penis depending on the car. Went to a fancy restaurant for your birthday? Compensating for a loveless marriage.

    I’m a really good friend

  11. Organised Redhead

    Earlier this year I decided to turn off all notifications for social media and I moved the apps on my phone so that they weren’t on my home screen. I’d increasingly found that my time was getting sapped by being on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and it wasn’t making me any happier, if anything it was making me unhappy. I’m so glad I did it…now I go on Facebook if I have a bit of time to spare instead of feeling obliged to immediately see what the latest notification is about. I’ve bought back hours of my time for me to do productive things instead. Plus when I do venture onto social media now it tends to be more interesting as I get a few bits of news all at once, instead of a slow trickle. It’s worked for me anyway. I don’t think I’d ever be completely without the likes of Facebook, but I’m very happy to have taken back control!

    Thanks for a great post on the subject.



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