Are We Wired for Keeping Up with the Joneses?
While I certainly haven’t traveled to all corners of the earth, the places I have been have all had something in common: every area has had clearly visible similarities within it.
These are things that you see all over the place in one area, but often not at all somewhere else.
Trends and fashions
In Hawaii, people had little sea turtle or flip flop stickers on their cars to indicate family size. In Bavaria, people hung a wide variety of pewter decorations in their windows or on their doors. Here in Arizona, the snowbirds all have wooden signs hanging from their trailers showing their name and home state.
Then of course there are the fads that sweep the nation (snuggies, anyone?) and the tendency of people to dress and act alike.
When your neighbor buys one thing, and you move to follow suit, that’s keeping up with the Joneses.
A pervasive phenomenon
That phenomenon is so pervasive that it makes me wonder, are we just wired to want the same things the people around us want?
Is “keeping up with the Joneses” really just an extension of the desire to fit in? After all, standing out or being socially isolated can literally be dangerous.
So maybe it makes sense, on a basic level.
And maybe we can turn that wiring to our advantage. This can be especially useful if we’re struggling to reach a money-related goal.
Turning keeping up with the Jones into an advantage
Turning the urge to fit in to our advantage can be a matter of finding the right Joneses to keep up with. Find the people who are already doing the things you want to be doing.
For example, if you want to spend less money eating out, start hanging out with the people at work who brown bag it. They won’t be receptive to eating out, and you’ll want to fit in. You can trade lunch-packing tips, and keep up with those Joneses by buying a single fancy insulated bag instead of buying lunch out at $10-$15 bucks a pop everyday.
Find a community that’s responsibly doing what you want to be doing, and let the tendencies toward fitting in work to your advantage.