Haven’t we become so obsessed. With flexing what we have, what we have done and who we are! It is like this fat ass competition, as to “ohh, I wonder who here is able to afford this”, “ohh, I wonder who is likely to be so successful that they become super rich in the future”, and “let’s flex pictures of our homes, lives and holidays so that we look better.” This way, everyone can see what we have. However it doesn’t stop there. Because even when uploading on our personal social media accounts, it is as if we are branding ourselves rather than posting our genuine lives and selves. As students, one of the first questions we ask each other is “what are you studying?”, while as adults it becomes “what job do you have?” And while we should congratulate others for what they achieve in life, and of course we should be proud of ourselves for what we accomplish, surely there is also more to life?
Examples of “Flex Culture”
Usually I would begin with a definition, however it is one of these things which we all see so often. So instead, to make you aware of the extent of of it currently, let’s illustrate what it is with using a few recent examples. A recent one would be off good old TikTok, where mainly teenage boys would flex their wealth, via the “rich boy check” (yawn). This may also be a place to bring up Kim Kardashian’s $23,000 diaper (nappy!) bag (double yawn), as well as ridiculously expensive clothing hauls, like the $30,000 guicci haul. Whilst there are many who would count themselves lucky if they were able to spend a 100th of that amount on clothing, if that. Another time, Jeffree Star and Shane Dawson filmed themselves throwing away $1 million worth of expired makeup. Who would have that amount of makeup in the first place? As you can guess, many would mercilessly mock those choosing to partake in the “rich boy” challenge, meanwhile you can imagine that the amount of makeup thrown away would have also driven a lot of backlash.
Nevertheless, generally speaking, flex culture is rather more discreet, and can take way in a number of forms. Flexing has been apparent in music for some time, with artists usually rapping about how much wealth they have, or about the number of cars they have. Furthermore, as already mentioned, flexing extends far beyond wealth, and can often look like people talking a lot about their academic or professional achievements. Or even “success” attained in personal lives, such as young romantic relationships and marriages, when we are all different!
“Fake it ’till You Make It!”
As much as many may dream of attaining huge amounts of wealth, for most this is only ever going to be a dream. So to compensate, the cheapest and probably the easiest way would be photo shopping. However it can be fairly easy to tell if something has been photo-shopped in this way, so if someone has a little extra money to dash, then they may choose to rent “luxury” items. In hope that it will be assumed they actually own these items. However a more obscure attempt, was when someone photoed themselves near a toilet seat, to make it look as if they were by an airplane window (and yes, this has been turned into a meme, which I initially fell for)! There is also plenty of help available for those wanting to make it look as if they are very wealthy. Including “how to” guides posted online, like a video titled “10 Ways to Look Expensive on a Budget”, which gained 1.5 million views on youtube. Now as I run this blog, and as most of you reading this post are going to be bloggers, I’d like to point out here that especially on pinterest, there are loads of adverts stating how to make huge and unrealistic amounts of money from blogging, in a very short amount of time. It does seem that for many, how much we make from something is a large motivator behind why they choose to do it. And if that fails, then it is going to be about how many followers people can get.
Why are we like this
So as crazy as some of these apparent trends may seem to us, I am sure that many of us have at least related to some of the ways in which we may flex ourselves, without necessarily realising we are doing so. Nonetheless, this raises the question of what caused us to become so obsessed over what we have. An economic explanation would be conspicuous consumption, which relates to spending money on luxury goods and services to show status or economic power. And of course there are multiple reasons which could attempt to explain this, but a large amount of this could be down to the initial focus on attaining wealth, meaning there is pressure upon everyone to become more wealthy. Therefore if one is able to show this off, then it is likely they would choose to do so.
Why this is bad for us all?
We have all been taught in life, some to differing degrees, that success=money. Yes, I know this sounds really clique, but that is the case, sadly. A project called inequaligram, run by the City University of New York, which looked at 7.5 million instagram posts shared in Manhattan, showed that wealthy neighborhoods were dramatically over-represented in posts, including those from people who lived in poorer parts of the city. This highly suggests that while richer people are going to be in more of a privileged position to have the time to share on social media more frequently, we all are more invested in the lives of rich people. Yet it seems that very few of us like flexing when it is too obvious.
So most of you before will have probably already had the view that flex culture is actually pretty ugly. And that those who hugely engage in it, who the world seems to hate yet love, are most likely to live pretty sad lives. Nevertheless, it is important to recognise how much society encourages flex culture, which while it may be more discreet, it still isn’t going to be too good for us.
The Psychological Impact of Seeing YouTubers Spend Millions | WIRED
‘Flexing’ or bragging about wealth may stop you from making friends, study shows (insider.com)
It’s Time to Tone Down Flexing on Social Media | 34th Street Magazine (34st.com)
Appearing wealthy on social media has become its own industry (macleans.ca)
What is “Flexing”? And Why You Shouldn’t | Strategy Lab Marketing Regina