We are being consumed by a materialistic world. We strive for fleeting and futile wealth instead of focusing on what really matters. At least, this seems to be the gist of Kylie Jenner’s latest statement regarding a claim by the Forbes Magazine that she may have doctored her tax returns to inflate her net worth and falsely claimed that she was a billionaire.

‘I can name a list of 100 things more important right now than fixating on how much money I have’. This might mean friends and family, learning a new skill or hobby or just relaxing and reflecting. All worthy goals during this pandemic. In contrast to that is our fixation on money and influencers flaunting their ostentatious wealth on social media.

Their elaborate PR campaigns want to convince us to buy products we cannot afford and do not need. This does not happen in the form of classic advertising but rather endorsement deals where an influencer presents the product in a simple, seemingly casual post on their social media profile. A supposedly spontaneous selfie is now meticulously planned and professionally shot and assiduously edited. Those selfies now translate into clicks and fame and therefore more money from advertising.

Having influencers advertise is a great deal for advertisers as well. It’s less costly and provides another level of engagement with the customer, since there is a conscious decision to watch such a video.

While we are living in a society with rising inequality, we still spend our free time online looking at others shamelessly ‘flexing’. These new celebrities are not famous because of their talent or hard work but rather because they are, or at least seem to appear, rich. Their posts offer an insight into an unrealistic yet alluring life we could never afford ourselves. The walls of the gated communities are torn down and the life lived by the rich and famous is visible to an extent which makes it almost seem achievable.

But why do influencers flex? To make others jealous?

In order to answer these questions, we should look at what we mean by ‘flexing’ in the first place. We seem to have an instinct to show others that we are doing well. We are comparing ourselves to other people all the time, but this has been amplified by social media and brand marketing on those platforms. Showing that we are doing well is part of human nature. However, posting a story of a nice meal we just had would hardly qualify as flexing.

But we are considerate of others. It is not the celebration of our experiences, but shameless displays of wealth, that we call “flexing”. Especially during this lockdown, when our lives are moving online, we need to be wary of focusing too much on others’ experiences instead of our own. We need to see the façade behind their campaigns and focus on what can make us happy. In a society divided by wealth, we should not give those flaunting theirs a greater audience. Kylie Jenner may be right, not just during the current crisis.

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