We used to keep up with the Joneses. Oh, we said we didn’t. But when we saw a new Mustang in our neighbor’s driveway, we started thinking, maybe we could get one too. Or our friends were talking about their trip to Europe, and suddenly we wondered if we owed it to ourselves to make the trip. After all, it wasn’t just a vacation, it was a learning experience!

     But nobody keeps up with the Joneses anymore. Now there’s Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok and all the other social media. So today people keep up with the Kardashians.

     The result is just the same, or worse. We go into debt, we don’t appreciate our purchases, we feel guilty . . . we feel worse for the experience. Or, if we can’t afford to do what they’re doing, we’re jealous, or we resent it.

     Come on. Be honest. Haven’t you ever seen a friend’s post on Facebook or Instagram and they’re sipping a drink on some tropical beach with a fancy hotel in the background? And you thought to yourself: Gee, if she can spend a week in Belize, why can’t I?

Good times

     If that’s not true, then why do we scroll through social media and see so many of our friends on vacation basking on the beach or sipping exotic cocktails? Why do we see so many people riding on the lake in their new boat? Or there’s a picture of their new deck and backyard. Or they’re going to a concert, attending a football game, riding their new electric bike.

     There’s even a name for it:  revenge tourism, or revenge spending. The term captures the notion that we were deprived by Covid for a year or two, so dammit, we’re going to make up for lost time right now, no matter the cost, no matter how it stretches our credit card bill or depletes our IRA account. Who knows what crisis lies beyond the next bend? We’d better grab our experience now while we can. As the saying goes, you only live once . . . or YOLO.

     Everything’s gotten more expensive. But we’re willing to do it anyway. And we seniors have yet another excuse. We’re not getting any younger. Maybe we won’t be healthy enough to travel in a few years. So we better do it — and do it now!

     As for me, I drove through town the other day and noticed that every restaurant was full, people sitting at outdoor tables under the umbrellas. People were waiting for tables, spilling out onto the sidewalk. They all looked like they were having so much fun. I wanted to go out to dinner too!

     So perhaps we’re not keeping up with the Joneses, or even the Kardashians. We’re keeping up with our friends and acquaintances and people we hardly know.

     Meanwhile, my brother-in-law just posted on Facebook a photo of himself in Paris. A friend posted a picture of her new patio furniture on Instagram. Are they posting because they want me to share their enjoyment of that experience . . . or because they want me to be impressed? As much as I try to resist it, I’m feeling the fear of missing out, or FOMO. It looks to me like I’m sitting at home in front of my computer while they’re active and alive and enjoying life to the fullest.

     Social media provides us with a lot of free entertainment. But I wonder if in the end it’s costing us a lot.

Tom Lashnits Writer, Blogger

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