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Monday, April 23, 2012

Today in Fake Medical Conditions: Financial Cyberchondria

Posted By on Mon, Apr 23, 2012 at 4:34 PM

Honey, the Smiths just bought a new scooter with big rims. Get your credit card, were going shopping.
  • "Honey, the Smiths just bought a new scooter with big rims. Get your credit card, we're going shopping."

Social media is really only good for three things: 1) Voyeuristic glimpses into your friends' lives to see how much better you're doing than them. 2) Egotistical bragging so that your friends know you're doing better than them. 3) Finding really rad pictures of corgis.

Checking in on FourSquare is merely a way for someone to prove to you they're not eating donuts naked on the couch by themselves. Baby pictures? Just proof that their genitals work. It's all vanity. Unless it's sharing corgi pictures.

Anyway, a doc at the Cleveland Clinic talked to Fox Business and expounded on that very common phenomenon while introducing us to a new trendy disease: financial cyberchondria. Basically, we want to be just as popular as our friends, so we go and spend money at places to prove that we're popular. It's not so much a disease per se as an unhealthy financial philosophy, but boring two-paragraph reminders that you should be smart with your cash don't get you interviewed by Fox Business. New diseases do. Especially if they involve social media.

"Social media can lead to developing a case of perceived financial failure," says Scott Bea, a clinical psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic. "It can also lead to a lot of financial-related stress."


Now comes financial cyberchondria — misdiagnosing your financial shortcomings using the Web. In this case, the "germs" lurk on social media websites.

So you could start coming down with some of the same financial symptoms of some of your social media connections or develop a host of financial illnesses thanks to all those tweets and Facebook status updates.

Unfriending and not following is rarely a cure. Who would want to shut themselves off from the virtual realm? "You need to know how to prevent or recover from financial cyberchondria since it's nearly impossible to avoid all social media," says Bea.

Yes, we should all be more aware of financial cyberchondria. And marital MarioTrichinosis, but that's a story for another day.

As one expert points out in the story, financial cyberchondria is easily remedied if you remember one simple thing: whatever version of ourselves we choose to plaster online is not only a partial one, but a highly contrived one embellished by subtraction.

"Rarely do our friends and acquaintances 'check in' at Walmart," says Karen Carlson, director of education at InCharge Education Foundation, a financial literacy and consumer education program. "But they certainly announce when they check into four-star restaurants, major retailers and attractions."

Similarly, friends don't hop on Twitter to post: "Drinking boxed wine out of an empty Ramen container while licking a banana peel with no banana in it," or "Really having a blast staring at this credit card balance, dudes. I'll have this sucker paid off in 15 years, no problem. All worth it." But maybe you should, even if it's not true. You never know, you could be saving one of your friend's financial lives by doing so.

This has been a free financial seminar from your friends at Scene. We will not be buying anything or doing anything tonight. In fact, we're even out of boxed wine.

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