Is social media fueling “money dysmorphia” among young consumers?

Young Asian beautiful woman using smart phone for business, online shopping, transfer money, financial, internet banking in coffee shop.

SINGAPORE: Social media platforms have become a virtual gallery of idealised lifestyles, where every moment seems picture-perfect. But behind the glossy filters and staged snapshots lies a troubling trend: the rise of what experts call as “money dysmorphia” among young consumers.

Mr Alvin Tan, a financial services director at PhillipCapital, described money dysmorphia, a money disorder, as an insecurity about one’s financial situation, regardless of stability.

In an interview with The Edge Singapore, Mr Tan pointed out how platforms like Instagram and TikTok often showcase “only the positives” of life, creating a distorted perception of reality.

He noted that this illusion is made worse by influencers, especially in areas like cryptocurrency. When crypto values dropped, these influencers disappeared, but when values rose again, they “declared their wins proudly.”

According to Mr Tan, “Social media is fake; winners always appear when the market is up but vanish when it’s down to complete radio silence. The younger generation must know this is happening increasingly.”

What’s particularly worrying is that “money dysmorphia” doesn’t discriminate. It affects not only those chasing materialistic dreams but also individuals genuinely interested in managing their finances. This can make people feel bad about their own finances, leading to anxiety and financial disillusionment.

Mr Tan reflected on his own upbringing, where financial goals seemed more straightforward. He said, “My parents taught me that if I studied hard, I would do well, but I can’t say the same right now. Everyone is studying hard today, but I don’t think this simple strategy can be repeated.”

In this era, he emphasised the importance of cultivating financial literacy from a young age and urges against being swayed by the online facade of prosperity.

But how can one fight against “money dysmorphia”?

Mr Tan suggests starting with open conversations about money and acknowledging personal spending triggers like FOMO (fear of missing out).

“You have to have a very healthy relationship with money,” he said.

It’s about setting realistic financial milestones and gradually working towards them, instead of chasing instant wealth. “The journey to understanding how to manage your money is lifelong,” he noted.

Yet, overcoming money dysmorphia is no easy feat.

To know if someone has beaten money dysmorphia means checking if they’ve stopped old habits like stressing too much about money and started spending and saving smarter.

Social media makes this problem worse for young people, but there’s no quick fix, and it can affect anyone, no matter their age.

Mr Tan acknowledged that comparisons are inherent to human nature, and completely eliminating them is unlikely.

Instead, he encourages individuals for a shift in mindset, one that prioritises managing emotions on “comparison” over learning financial management immediately.

“Take a step back, think about it and realise it’s fine, no one will actively condemn anyone,” said Mr Tan. /TISG

Read also: Resilient Singaporean Woman Shares Extreme Money-Saving Methods After COVID-19 Setbacks

Featured image by Depositphotos

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