Insta Rich — What Instagram says about our Socio-Economics Consciousness… and why that sucks for our future

Miguel Alexander
Dec 2, 2019 · 6 min read

Social media is chock-full of economic statements.

It’s true. People really like to show their unique take on the good life.

And why not. It’s fun.

A simple scroll grants me first-row access to a weekend worth of adventures:

  • A former colleague snorkeling with his bikini-clad Aussie girlfriend in the Maldives;
  • My car-loving friend and client: arms crossed, clean white Yeezy’s, gangster-leaning on a metallic blue McLaren;
  • a friend unboxing the latest commercial-quality Phantom drone which is worth more than my SUV.

Acknowledged or not, these are statements about how much we make, spend, and have.

I can tell — anecdotally and empirically — that the economy is good. And while I do wonder how long this ride will last (you check out my last post: recession on the brink) … we all know it can’t last forever.

But what I’m more concerned about is that our social focus skews to “fronting” economic status … construing an economic reality and status marked by things we experience: touch, taste, and buy…

What I don’t see, is focus on how we earn money, our rate of return on our net worth, how we save or create tax-free growth… all the things we should know and in recessionary times, need to know.

Instagram gives us a sneak peek into our actual socio-financial consciousness. One that’s been characterized by a rejection of long-term planning.

Personal finance — largely — has been centered on the question:

“How can I save enough for when I retire and no longer work?”

Answering this question has given us the volume of personal finance advice that tells us to be thrifty and save for retirement — advice our parents and grandparents lived by. In short, this school of thought advises us to deny ourselves the pleasures of today for the rewards tomorrow. It is a position that as a generation, we’ve categorically rejected.

This is what New York Times Best Selling author Tim Ferris refers to as the “deferred life plan” in The 4-Hour Workweek.

Rightly so, Ferris’ critique centers on the sacrifice we’ve been told to accept for the life we may have not tomorrow, 30 to 40 years from now.

The question the reader is left with is…

‘Why neglect experiences today by saving for a retirement that may never come?’

Exploring this question is critical.

Does too much life deferment yield a life unexplored and unfulfilled?

Yes.

But, as I continue my scroll while I simultaneously rant on socio-economic consciousness, I wonder if I myself answered the question too simply and quickly…

Perhaps there was a natural second question on money and wealth that I was supposed to ask and answer after rejecting the dreaded deferred life plan?

The counterfactual of the deferred life plan is sacrificing all enjoyment today for benefits tomorrow. I disagree with that notion but there is likely some value in considering it.

So I’ve jotted down 3 questions that I want my teenage kid to ask while he’s double-tapping every Rolex or Lambo he happens upon in his feed.

1. What are some ACTIVITIES or STRATEGIES available to me now to create wealth? What is the expected income I can KEEP from 1 year of doing this successfully? 5 years? What chance of failure comes with each of these activities or strategies?

2. Are there SKILLS or CONCEPTS I can master to improve my probability of success in any investment? Are there SKILLS I can develop today that can generate income in any market? Are there higher value SKILLS that either reduce my risk or increase my reward?

3. Are there 1X sacrifices I can make today that can produce 10X results in SKILLS or STRATEGIES that will influence my socio-economic position 1 year from now? 2 years from now? What would I be willing to do differently to make that return larger or come faster?

The answers to all of the above are less important than asking the questions, which should yield some thought about the future.

These questions are intended to associate the impact that economic consciousness — the awareness of skills and strategies that create wealth — has on both real income (now) and income potential (later).

The answers drive us to better understand how our abilities and actions today create financial results down the road. That is the real reason we get educated now (something lost on kids memorizing times tables and period charts)— so that we have more skills later in order to creatively produce.

This relationship between labor and production is not lost on the historical great economic thinkers, notably covered by Adam Smith and Karl Marx. Karl Marx believed that capitalism separated the worker from his production, which would ultimately remove his ability to understand his worth and one of the reasons that he predicted the inevitable rise of the proletariat against their capitalist usurpers. While history has shown capitalism to empower the proletariat, there is some truth to this critique.

Our economy is so big, our timelines are so long, and our world is so transparent — that in large part the relationship between our skills today and production tomorrow has been neglected and detached.

Yet it is so crucial to understanding the financial continuum that ebbs and flows with increasing skills and technologies and trade-off that this continuum implies: one between investing in SKILL or STRATEGIES today with no reward for perceived benefits later.

I want to be clear that I have no opinion on what should or should not be shared on social media. Social media is simply an amplifier of our self-selected best or loudest versions of ourselves (and not the chosen place for vulnerabilities).

However, I do fear that our current financial consciousness, which social media amplifies, perpetuates that it’s ALL about demonstrating socio-economic progress rather than achieving it.

I agree with the undercurrent of truth in rejecting the deferred life plan— that following an outdated view of keeping up with the Joneses, putting career before happiness, and saving in the hope of retiring one day is not the formula for realizing one's best self.

We cannot follow our parents’ footsteps.

Those footsteps lead to the denial of self, expression, and experience in hopes for fulfillment in later years that never came. Many in that generation, that of the great boomers, followed their parents’ advice only to lose their savings in a financial crisis or realize that they worked a lifetime without enjoying the fruits of life.

We’ve realized great self-expression in rejecting previous rules that do not serve us. But we have yet to fill this void with the very same pragmatic thinking that defied useless dictums on how we should live socially.

Today we’ve filled the vacuum of how to think about socio-economics with show-me-economics.

There is incredible value in defining our own views on value creation, finances, and savings. These findings stand to upgrade our views on business, government, and welfare.

Yet we spend our economic focus elsewhere — on how we would like to spend it, on how we do spend it, and how others spend it.

Ultimately — only new ideas will carry us forward and shape the relationship we so need between work and production. Karl Marx is long dead.

A new school of economics must first be pragmatic and relevant. The world is today flat, rich with experiences we can easily access in ways our grandparents could only dream.

Yet — it must bring forth a balance to an age-old problem that seeks to balance enjoying the fruits of today with preparation for the harvest of tomorrow.

What our children have now instead is a never-ending scroll of economic statements devoid of meaning.

Doubt me? Look no further than your phone.

Home Economics

Simple takes on how economic, social, and other trends translate at home. We are parents, business people, and nobody’s in search of what’s true, interesting, and (occasionalyl) comical.

Miguel Alexander

Written by

Accounting and Business Advisor, Real Estate Investor, Father of Two Future Entrepreneurs

Home Economics

Simple takes on how economic, social, and other trends translate at home. We are parents, business people, and nobody’s in search of what’s true, interesting, and (occasionalyl) comical.