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Pandora's avatar

Why do some people feel the need to "keep up with the Joneses"?

Asked by Pandora (23229 points ) December 13th, 2012

I’m sure we all know people who like to keep up with the Jones’ of this worlds. No matter how I try, I can’t comprehend it. Especially when they do something that can burden themselves financially or physically or morally.

Do they really not see that it doesn’t make them any happier? I know several people who are very reasonable and responsible people most days till they see or hear someone bragging about something and suddenly they must have it too. I don’t believe its greed or they would just always be on a shopping spree. There desire just isn’t triggered till they personally know someone who has this item. I just don’t understand it and I’m hoping someone on fluther can explain this too me.

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14 Answers

zenvelo's avatar

It’s low self esteem and the need for recognition. The lack of self confidence tells them they will be accepted on the same basis as others if they have the same things.

wundayatta's avatar

It goes back to our nature as tribal creatures for whom status is everything. Status is what gets us the most suitable mates. When someone has something cool, then others need to acquire the same thing if they are to maintain a similar level of coolness. If they don’t, the other people will start sneering at them, and eventually, they might even be cut out of the loop.

This goes way beyond our conscious brain’s ability to think about. It is instinctual. You do it because you know how important it is to maintain your status. The only people who claim not to care about status are those who don’t have any. But it’s a lie.

Try not to take it too seriously. It’s not a bad thing. It’s just our monkey nature. We are not in control of this. It serves a role in propagating the species.

Pandora's avatar

@zenvelo, You are a genius my friend! Out of the 5 people that fit my description, all 5 do have low confidence. I never put it together because I forget their past and they act confident. But I personally know how insecure they really are because of their past.
@wundayatta I agree with what your saying with the exception of not needing status. I actually do prefer to be in the background when it comes to everyone else in the world. Well unless I’m ordering food or standing on line. LOL
Even at a party people think I’m very funny and very social. There was a time I liked all the attention but I really rather just have some polite conversation, get my grub and go. I socialize mostly with those who seem to have trouble socializing because I feel guilty if I can see they are uncomfortable and everyone is ignoring them. Out of the 5 people only two can propagate. The rest are too old. I did however have a very solid childhood with a very loving dad and even if my mom wasn’t all mushy and loving during my teens I knew I could trust that she would fight for me like a mother lion, so I didn’t grow up with any severe insecurities.

Unbroken's avatar

When we like or admire someone we have a tendency to imitate the body language pick up on the nuances of others. Mimic speech pattern. It is called mirroring.

In a consumerist society isn’t is natural to take it to the next step? I mean as humans and especially Americans we are always pushing the limit.

However I think @zenvelo and @wundayatta also made equally valid points.

Edit We don’t have to admire them in order to do this maybe they have a quality the person feels they lack.

wundayatta's avatar

@Pandora I’m using status in the sense of your position in the community. I don’t just mean on the dance floor or at the party. I mean who people turn to when they want a leader for the PTA. Or they want someone to invest in a business. Or run a campaign. Or they want you as a friend.

I guess you could prefer to stay at home and go to work and have no one say “boo” to you. But I doubt that people really want that. I think people become shy and retiring because they think they have nothing anyone else wants, for the most part. If they were glamorous, or could be, most people would choose to do it. Or if they could have wealth, most people would choose to have it. If they could get a better job, most people would take it. If their writing could be popular, or their art work, most people would take that. Status is everywhere, not just keeping up with the Joneses.

Pandora's avatar

@wundayatta The examples you gave make sense. But I’m talking about the people who do illogical things. Lets take the job. The person who would take the job that pays less and has crappy hours because so and so works there. Or who would trade in their brand new car at a lost (and can’t afford it) because their sibling has purchased a car better than your first car, or the neighbor who now has to buy a large 55 inch tv screen for a small room even thought they kept always complaining that the 42 inch was too large and hard to watch so close up. But if you have one, well they have to get one too.
I’m not talking about the stockbroker who has to maintain an image to get his next promotion. That actually makes sense to me. It was the ones who make a bad decision for some temporary approval that means nothing in the end.
I actually did the being popular kid several times in my life. Sure it was fun at times but then I realized you never really get to be who you are. To stay popular you have to be what others want you to be. That simply is not for me.

Shippy's avatar

No thank goodness I don’t. I like a simple life. That means something to eat, a bed to sleep in and a shower. I do like pretty things, and nice things, but I don’t even look at what others have nor want it. I am free.

Shippy's avatar

sorry your question say “Why do people”. No idea they are not free

marinelife's avatar

I think that it comes from poor self-esteem. These people need an outside measurement to show that they are doing well.

woodcutter's avatar

It is the poker face mentality. Not having stuff in a capitalist society can be looked at as weakness. Not having as much or more will get others to thinking you may not be on a stable financial footing,and as such will have others wondering if such people should have the same status. Even if getting stuff means spending resources that are not available seems the lesser evil than being responsible and waiting and looking lame. That’s why millionaires who have no use for “more” will still get more so their contemporaries will not think they have lost their edge. To these people, greed is good as well as a necessity just to keep from losing ground.

ucme's avatar

Because for those poor tortured individuals there “pools” are too shallow, fear of sinking see.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

I agree that it is a hard-wired status thing. In Africa, among the native tribes, it is a status thing to have a cow dung floor in your mud hut. If you have a cow-dung floor instead of a dirt floor, you are considered wealthy and successful. The amount that the status thing costs isn’t the issue, it is having something better, or at least as good, as your peers.

YARNLADY's avatar

There is the possibility that when they see someone with something, they want one too. That’s how advertising works. Getting things makes us feel good.

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