There aren’t any forms of positive envy, but Facebook envy might be the worst.
What is it? Facebook envy happens when you see a “friend” post about a vacation, a restaurant or a new car—anything that you can’t have—and you immediately feel inadequate because you don’t have those things.
Maybe you’re trying to get out of debt, or maybe you’ve recently lost a job and had to cut way back on spending. You’re in a tight spot.
Meanwhile, most of your friends are walking the credit card wire. They might fall any day now, but they’re going to look good on the way down! They love to show off every part of their extravagant, seemingly carefree lifestyle.
So how do you know if you suffer from Facebook envy? Let’s walk through all the stages using an example.
Let’s say your friends Mike and Sally recently bought a brand-new, two-story, four-bedroom house just outside the city. It’s the perfect house—the house you’ve always wanted.
Three hours after closing on their house, Sally posts this Facebook status:
“We are so blessed! Mike and I just bought our dream house! We can’t wait to start our family, grow old together, and live the life we’ve always dreamed of in this perfect home! We are so blessed! I love this house, and I love you, Mike! We are so blessed!”
Of course, the status update isn’t enough. Sally also posts a photo, and, no surprise, the house is beautiful.
For you, the process of Facebook envy now begins.
1) You see the status update. Wow, that’s a beautiful house, you think. I’ve always wanted a house like that, you think. Mike and Sally, they’re such a cute couple. They seem to have everything.
2. You compare. This is where Facebook envy really starts. You compare your little studio apartment to their 3,000-square-foot, four-bedroom home. While looking at the photos, you realize your bedroom would likely fit inside their master bedroom closet.
3. You feel inadequate. Look at their house, and here you are living in this tiny apartment. You begin to feel sad and depressed because you thought you and your wife would have your own place by now. But some bad financial decisions have set you back and delayed your first home purchase. And there are Mike and Sally, living the life and rubbing it in on Facebook.
4. You consider making a change. You’re now inspired, but not in a good way. Before, you wanted to get out of debt, and you were willing to do whatever it took to reach that goal. Now you’re considering abandoning that plan. You’re inspired to keep up with the Joneses—or, in this case, Mike and Sally. You hop on a real estate website and start looking at comps. Right now, you could probably only make a 5% down payment—nowhere near your 20% goal—but you’ve got to have a new house because you want to make your own Facebook post!
5. You start taking active steps to make that change. You call a real estate agent. You visit a couple of open houses. You meet with a mortgage lender and look at some “creative” (in other words, terrible) loan options that will keep you in debt for 30 years. You are in full-on Facebook envy mode now. You’re considering changing all your plans, and your entire future, over a case of Facebook envy.
6. You (hopefully) realize you’re about to make a bad decision. Finally, you hear a voice, maybe Dave Ramsey’s, say, “What are you doing?” You snap out of it. You realize this has all been one terrible case of Facebook envy, and you back off your crazy change of plans. Or you move forward and make a terrible decision that will cause major regret a year from now.
Now, this is an extreme example to make a point.
You might not get Facebook envy over a house. For you, it could be your friend’s food pictures, their vacations, all their group photos or even their always-smiling faces.
So how do you curb Facebook envy?
Simply realize that no amount of stuff will bring you happiness. Understand that, if your Facebook friends are like most Americans, a lot of their glamorous, showy lifestyle is thanks to debt.
You’ve chosen to avoid debt, right? So, one day, you can have the house and the vacation—and, most importantly, the legacy for your family—without mortgaging your future.
So if you have an out-of-control case of Facebook envy, maybe it’s time to take a break from social media. Let your “friends” all show off the stupid decisions they make with money, while you stay above it all. You’ll be much better off that way.
Have you ever had a case of Facebook envy?