Keeping Up with the Joneses

in writing •  3 months ago

Many of us can't help but strive to try and keep up with the Joneses, but this endless quest to keep up with others can quickly breed a myriad of negative problems in our lives.

Researchers suggest that for many of us, our relative position in society is of great importance to us. This is because people associate that position with power, respect, and admiration.

Would you be surprised to find out that quite often it is our relative standing to others in society that influences how we think about how we are doing and our overall happiness, rather than our absolute wealth?

Joe could be making $60k a year, which is certainly something to be grateful for, and yet he might not be satisfied with his earnings if he thinks that everyone else around him is earning more than him.

One previous Harvard survey that was conducted with help from others several years ago, sought to investigate concerns about relative standing, and they included responses in their study from students, as well as staff and faculty.

The study had required the participants to choose between a world where they had more of a good than others, or a world where everyone's endowment of that good was higher, but they would have less for themselves than in the first world option.

For example, when asked if they would rather choose between making $50k per year, while everyone else around them made $40k, or the option of making $100k but everyone else around them making $200k, they would go with the first option of having less—but yet still more than those around them. Many would go with that option, rather than the 2nd which would technically give them more income than the first option. Researchers asked participants to choose between these scenarios for things such as education, attractiveness, intelligence, vacation time, and income.

Researchers admit that concerns for attractiveness were the strongest.

Their results indicated that many people would rather live in a world where they had more of a certain good than others, than be in a world where they had more of a good but not relative to others.

Instagram and other similar sties today have now boosted that opportunity for social comparison.

Researchers have suggested that Instagram and Snapchat are among the worst for mental health; influencing young people to feel depressed. Not everyone using these sites will have a negative experience from using them though, but there are many who can easily find themselves spending hours going through photos of other people's lives, only to have it make them feel worse about their own.

When we are mindful of our media habits, it can help us to have a different and hopefully more productive experience.

When viewing the lives of others on these sites, remember that we often are not given an honest picture of reality. Much of the content is heavily edited and of course we are only getting to see the highlights and it's likely not going to be the boring, sad, or angry moments being shared that others might experience. It doesn't paint a realistic standard for us to try and live up to.

By acknowledging what we are thinking while we spend time following and watching other people live their lives, it can help us to know whether the experience is guiding us in a negative direction. Then, we might be able to guide it back into another direction, transforming the experience into one that is more positive and beneficial for our lives. If scrolling through Instagram and other apps is making you feel bad about yourself and your life, then stop doing it. Comparing your life to others is a quick way to evaporate your happiness.

Spending too much time focusing on what others have and allowing that to influence whether or not we feel satisfied in our own lives, can be one of the easiest ways to fuel stressful and depressed thoughts. When we readjust our perspective however, to consider that many people in the world live in poverty and that countless people lived a much lower standard of living in the past, it might help us to realize that we have many things to be thankful for.


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You offer a good article. I think the idea of needing more and keeping up with the Joneses was increasingly propelled after World War II. The middle class in America wanted to do better for their children thus the me generation and the need to have material wealth. We have seen a second wave of this through social media today. I guess I don't fit the mold because I don't care what the hell the Joneses think. I think that concept is born out of the need for approval in one's life and some sort of social acceptance. For myself I'm not worried if I have that or not as I have other things in my life too draw my attention to. But there are folks who need it like Linus needs a blanket and for them it works. I'm not so certain one can keep up with the Joneses because they're always one step ahead of you. Thanks my friend for a good article.

There’s a lot of it in Steemlandia. Folks fretting over how somebody else’s post made more than theirs. Maybe I should buy votes too self-defeating logic.

Yes! This is spot on!

Not to mention how all the big tech giant creators semi admitted they knew they were creating something that taps into the part of the human psyche that so many are vulnerable to attack from.

I myself left FB a while back and have not had an issue with out it.

I feel bad sometimes how bad I can nag on m girlfriend @kelsnm about her cellphone social media usage.. and the literal brain numbing effects it can have...

Those phones are emitting RF waves.. and although someone will certainly come along and say that they are completely safe, I disagree.

interesting article friend and very complete, so that everything flows well you have to have respect and admiration, I dedicate myself to my work and my family and I try to stay away from the jones
I admire your work @doitvoluntarily happy night

Oh yes, thankfulness contributes enormously to our own happiness. Thanks for your post!

Advertising often plays on that too, it seams.

I try to measure my own success on achieving personal goals, and handing my responsibilitys as a Christian, husband, dad, son, etc. It is easy to fall into this trap though. You have to train your mind to recognize and avoid it.

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thank you for sharing 👍

We use each other
as a measure of success,
happiness, or pain.


We use each other
As a measure of success,
Happiness, or pain.

                 - primal-buddhist

I'm a bot. I detect haiku.

@doitvoluntarily excellent report dear friend, although these things happen since prehistory, saving the stage, people value relationships very much, in such a competitive world, people are not strangers to that situation and if it can be very stressful to be always aware of it
Thank you very much for sharing this report
I wish you a great day

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I feel there are many truths within your post, in fact I possibly fall into the category of “keeping up with the Jones’” in some respects.
At the same time, people can be pigeonholed into this category when really they do not care much about fancy cars and big houses.

We moved into a somewhat rich neighborhood, although not being rich at all ourselves. We emptied our bank account and have to do most of the labor and work ourselves on the remodeling of the home. In the end all we wanted was a similar sized home but with more property and privacy. We sold our boat and some other things to be able to afford this home, so we have given up some of the luxury items we once had.

My grout filled fingernails and aching back would tell me that I’m not keeping up with


ive been following some of the renovations, when are you expecting to be done with it all?

I enjoyed reading your article. I may have enjoyed relatively more than those around me, and that makes me feel really smart. Ok, I'm lying. I enjoyed your article immensely, but I know everyone else enjoyed it twice as much. Sad face.

Seriously though, it is interesting research and does a great deal to explain why people are so focused on what others are doing. As a former high school English teacher, I saw this scenario play out over and over in my classroom. Students were ok with having more of something, or ok with everyone having the same, but at no time would one student willingly have less so everyone else could have more. It didn't matter what the commodity was - markers, paper, time to speak with the teacher - the results were the same.

Do you think this is something that we can change? Is it something that we should change?


thanks for taking the time to check it out!

Fantastic post and advice.

It is too easy to get caught up in the game and drawn into a life of financial slavery. Most of those who have these status symbols to sooth their egos are swamped in debt paying for them.

There should be a course in college dedicated to helping students who enter the work force not jump right into this trough.

By freedom and happiness......not stuff.


thank you for your feedback, it's always nice to know someone's reading 😂👍


Happy to participate in the conversation. I read all of your stuff and sometimes find myself reflecting back on it during the business day sometimes as I wrestle with the system and strive for my own freedom.

I really appreciate your support too.