Is Social Media Ruining Your Budget?

By: Keith Wagstaff · June 25, 2024 · Reading Time: 2 minutes

Whether you’re a teenager or middle-aged adult, social media can be hard to resist — and the federal government has something to say about it.

Last week, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek H. Murthy said that social media should come with a warning label for young people.

In an editorial for the New York Times , he wrote “social media is associated with significant mental health harms for adolescents,” and called on Congress to pass legislation that would “restrict the use of features like push notifications, autoplay and infinite scroll, which prey on developing brains and contribute to excessive use.”

Influencers and Ads

Young people are uniquely vulnerable to the effects of social media, Murthy said. But that doesn’t mean the technology doesn’t affect older folks.

FOMO, or fear of missing out, can motivate even adults to buy things online they don’t need. Seeing an influencer try on expensive clothes, even if they’re being paid to do it, can make you feel like you’re behind the curve if you’re not wearing them. People often want to be part of trends. The problem is that trends can be short-lived, but going into debt can have a long-lasting impact on your finances.

All of the tools that Murthy warned about — push notifications, autoplay, and infinite scroll — can expose you to an endless stream of targeted advertisements. Companies are expected to spend $82.89 billion this year on social media ads, according to a report from eMarketer . That’s a lot of money dedicated to tempting you to purchase stuff.

How to Avoid Impulse Purchases

Luckily, there are steps you can take to spend less on products you see on social media. First, you might want to unfollow brands and influencers that regularly tempt you to buy items you don’t need. App timers, third-party software that limits your social media use, or even deleting apps, are another way to keep yourself offline.

Another option is using the 30-day rule. If you feel the urge to buy something, write down the name of the item, how much it costs, and where it can be purchased. In 30 days, if you still feel like clicking “buy,” at least you know it’s something you really want.

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