How Keeping Up With The Joneses Can Damage Our Mental Health

5 minutes Written by Dr. Cullen Hardy

The grass is always greener on the other side, right?

I mean, that’s what we’ve always been taught. If you don’t like what you have, there is always better. 

Some people spend their entire lives trying to keep up with the latest trends, most expensive clothes, and the highest tech gadgets. 

But, have you ever stopped to wonder how the mindset of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ affects our mental wellbeing?

Constantly striving to own or achieve as much, or more, than the people around you can be detrimental to our self esteem. Let’s talk about why.

What Does ‘Keeping Up With The Joneses’ Mean?

It’s likely you’ve heard the phrase ‘keeping up with the joneses’ before, but maybe you’re not exactly sure what it means, or if you’re guilty of doing it. 

Keeping Up With The Joneses was a popular comic strip created in 1913. This comic ran for over 20 years and depicted the day-to-day lives of the McGinis family. The McGinis family strived to always be in competition with their neighbors, the Joneses. When the Joneses brought home a new car, the McGinis family were on the lot the next day. 

This social-climbing obsession through material goods is what has kept this phrase alive for decades after the comic ended. 

Keeping up with the Joneses simply means: you’re constantly preoccupied with your standard of living and how it appears to the outside world. This is done through comparison, envy, jealousy and often spending beyond your means. 

How Social Media Has Affected This Concept:

When times were simpler, and the only way you knew how ‘well’ your neighbors were living was by looking over into their backyard, this concept existed. However, in our world of social media, this concept has been exacerbated. 

From your own bed, you can scroll endlessly through beautiful aesthetic photographs of people living much more extravagant, or adventurous lives than you are. 

Not only are you able to spy (openly) on the lives of Instagram influencers who make their living off of taking quality photos, our feeds are packed with celebrity lifestyles boasting mansions, private jets, and million dollar jewelry. 

Instead of feeling pressure to have the best kept lawn on the street, this is now replaced by exotic vacations, picture-perfect homes, and exuberant closets that dress each member of the family in curated matching outfits. 

Social Media and Depression:

When we spend hours, upon hours of our days scrolling through perfectly organized Instagram feeds, it’s no surprise our mental health takes a toll. 

Many studies have directly linked both Facebook and Instagram to high rates of depression. The envy that follows hours of social media scrolling can easily cause dissatisfaction for your own life. 

For every Instagram influencer, their job is to literally pretend their lives are perfect. They get paid to show off their highlight reel, without ever taking a glimpse into the areas they struggle with (and they all do, because they are human). 

Taking a break from social media can be extremely beneficial for your mental health. If you can’t seem to detox from Instagram or Facebook just yet, take an inventory of the accounts you follow. 

If any of them make you feel inadequate, self conscious, ungrateful, or envious, unfollow them. There are millions of other accounts that offer transparency and show the real life struggles many of us face. 

Keeping Up With The Joneses Affects Our Spending Habits:

With more apps becoming overly simplified to expedite the ordering process, feelings of envy and jealousy can quickly cause you to spend beyond your means. 

You may see a clip on TikTok of an influencer that uses a specific product to enhance their daily lives, and without even thinking twice, you’ve bought it on Amazon with a few clicks. 

This accessibility to order products online within a matter of seconds has greatly increased credit card debt across the globe. 

Many people genuinely feel as though their lives will become better after ordering a specific product, and don’t think about the repercussions of their spending habits until it’s too late. 

These products may temporarily boost your self esteem and status on social media, but this feeling is often gone quicker than it started.

How Do You Shift Out Of The Comparison Mindset?

Life was so much easier when it was 1913. I don’t think the creators of those comic strips realized how well their cartoon graphics would age, as the ‘keeping up with the joneses’ mindsets have only expanded over time. 

While it’s far too easy to slip into a cycle of always needing more, there are a few ways you can shift out of this mindset.

  • Start a gratitude journal – every day write down 5 things you’re thankful for
  • Detox from social media 
  • Unfollow accounts that bring you down 
  • Build your mental strength (journaling, meditation, mindfulness practices)

When we actively choose to live our lives in a state of appreciation, we are far less likely to always feel like we need to compete with everyone else. 

Remember, while some may seem to have a far better life than you, there are always just as many people who have it much worse. Be thankful for what you can, and let go of what you can’t. Life is too short to spend it comparing.

Avatar Dr. Cullen Hardy

Written by Dr. Cullen Hardy

Dr. Cullen Hardy is a therapist in Michigan who specializes in couples, family and individual therapy.