The Financial Confessions: “My ‘Perfect’ Life On Social Media Is Putting Me In Debt”

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“I’m one of those girls with a pretty Instagram. It’s not technically my job (I’m not a blogger, and I’m not some famous artist or photographer), but I pride myself on having an Instagram that is pretty to look at and shows the best parts of my life. I’ve managed to get almost 5,000 followers from beautiful pictures of my city (Miami), with my signature bright colors and bold designs. Yes, I know it’s pathetic to have a “signature” for your random Instagram, but I really consider myself as having an aesthetic.

My “real” life is actually pretty boring. I work as an administrator in the performing arts, which sounds cool (and puts you near a lot of cool things), but in practice is just as boring as most administrative jobs. I do get tons of free tickets to things, though, and tons of fodder for my beautiful Instagram. My Instagram is where I have followers I mostly don’t know, who think I live this beautiful, perfect life. And I share all the posts to Facebook where I have almost all people I actually know, and I admit that it gives me a little rush to see that they are seeing this life. My collections of beautiful patterned maxi dresses and bright flowers on my brunch tables make me feel successful, especially when I think about people from high school or whatever looking at them. This is absolutely insane, I know!

But the truth is that when I moved here after college (I am not a native Floridian), I had taken the job strictly because it was the only job in the arts that was offered to me. I have come to love Miami, but it’s not my dream city. But I base my internet persona in many ways on being the quintessential Miami girl. I never had a tan really before I came here, now I have deep(ish) olive skin and my formerly-dirty blonde hair is now dark, long, and straight. I admit that I like this version of myself, with little gold bangles around my wrists and ankles, and slightly glowy moisturizer on my chest and shoulders.

This isn’t me, though. My real life is just like anyone else’s, doing the laundry and paying the bills and going grocery shopping. But I get caught up in it sometimes. I’ve gotten free things through my Instagram many times now, even though my following is small, because I usually post about specific things. I’ve even started experimenting with my own Miami style blog, but I don’t have the time for it right now. I don’t know if I’m “that girl,” but I am addicted to trying to be her. I stop my friends before they can touch their brunch plates, and I take a million hotdog-leg pictures to make sure I have the perfectly right one. I have a side of my apartment that I photograph, and it’s perfect. The other side is always a mess.

And I buy a lot of things to maintain my image. I pay for meals out, new bikinis (I’ve never photographed the same one twice), beautiful printed dresses nearly once a week, fresh flowers religiously once a week, etc etc etc. I even consider it important to always have a fridge full of La Croix and coconut water for my pictures. Writing this makes me realize just how insane it all is, but the truth is that I already knew. I spend money to make my life look a certain way, and I get a rush from looking that way, but my credit cards do not share my enthusiasm.

Over the past year, I’ve started accumulating a little bit of credit card debt each month, and it gets worse bit bit bit. I reassure myself by saying that this is an investment in something that will come together from the following I’m gathering and the “very small” amount of free stuff/attention I’m getting. Right now I have about $3,400 that I cannot pay on my cards, and I’ve slipped into paying the minimum. And as I’m writing this, I’m eating the sushi I bought on my way home, photographed 50 times, posted, and got 231 likes on so far. I plan on telling my parents about this when I go home next weekend so they can yell at me and force me to stop because I know they’ll absolutely freak out. I know exactly how stupid what I’m doing is, but I just need someone to tell me, I guess.

That’s my life.”



  • Courtney

    I’d love to know what your instagram username is just so I could see the photos. I have a much larger following on instagram than you and I can definitely see how this happens. I am a photographer and run around in the “underground” instagram photography community. There are a lot of people on there that spend way too much money trying to impress other people. Way more than $3400. A lot of them take several vacations a year to far off locations just to post unique photos.
    The problem is, the bar is always getting set higher. If you post something great and get 2000 likes and then post something not quite as good and get 1000, you’re going to keep trying for the higher number of likes and always try to outdo yourself.. which can mean spending money and spending money you don’t have. Hypothetically, if a photo of your local beach in Miami gets you 500 likes and you take a trip to Jamaica and get 1000 likes, then you think “Hey, Bora Bora could get me 2000 likes”… pretty soon we’re all signing up with NASA to go to Mars.. Lol.
    It’s really a strange trap to get yourself into..
    The funny part is, we are the only ones that care as much as we do about our own instagram account.. meaning, if you posted a photo of a bikini you already have, there is not a single follower of yours that will think “wow, she has some nerve posting that bikini again.. she should’ve bought a new one”. It just doesn’t matter to anyone but you.
    I would recommend photographing stuff you already own and not spending anymore money specifically for the sake of instagram.. I’m sure you will notice people will still love your photos.
    In a world that can be so chaotic, it’s understandable you’d want to portray a “perfect” life but if it’s not who you truly are and you can’t enjoy yourself and have a nice time with friends without thinking of instagram photos, it’s time for a change.

    • I think it’s funny that you mention, “If you posted a photo of a bikini you already have, there is not a single follower of yours that will think “wow, she has some nerve posting that bikini again.. she should’ve bought a new one”. It just doesn’t matter to anyone but you.”

      I actually LOVE seeing the bigger instagrammers post things more than once, because it makes them feel more real. I was looking at a picture slideshow of Jackie O, and two of the photos show her in the same dress, a couple days apart, and I was like, “Oh, she was a real person who had to wear the same clothes more than once!” It just makes it feel a little personal to me and I like that.

    • Thrift Manila

      I also maintain an Instagram and just so happens I always post travel-themed photos because I’m at the point of my life that this is what I usually do in between my jobs. I make money to take those weekend trips, not so I’d have something to post but because I want to see and experience more of this world.

      Contrary to what you said about outdoing yourself and spending more money on it, I get much more likes taking photographs in my own country; on super budgeted trips. I don’t have much of a following actually but the most number of likes I got on a photo was on a day trip I had with my friends about 1.5 hours away from the city, while a photo I took in an overseas trip to Japan had about one third likes. Of course I thought my Japan photo would have higher likes but I’m glad it didn’t turn out that way. I guess my followers (mostly from the same country as I am) love seeing how accessible the places I go to on weekends, and how they can enjoy these themselves. I do not Instagram to be liked, but to keep record memorable points of my life and share these experiences to others with the same interest.

      I guess you just have to be authentic and the “market” will reach you. You do not have to impress anyone but having pretty photos is not a crime. It just doesn’t have to be staged all the time.

  • Tristen

    Thanks for sharing this. Why not intersperse some photos of real-life you? People will respond and appreciate seeing the messy side of things. Do you follow #WomenIRL? (Real Simple’s Women in Real Life hashtag project.) It’s one of my absolute favorites. Maybe it can give you some inspiration to share the not-so-perfect moments.

  • Sindhoo

    Wow, this was really interesting. Thank you for sharing this.

  • I love your honesty and sincerity in this post! Keep them coming 🙂 ! You can always pay off your debt and keep taking beautiful pics!

  • Erin Williams

    Thanks for the reminder not to get too wrapped up in an image of ourselves. I’m certainly nowhere near this level, but I understand where the impulse comes from.
    As far as steps forward for you, have you considered doing a social media fast? Log out of instagram, pinterest, everything, on your phone and don’t go back for a week. Then when you do go back, focus on creating beautiful moments out of what you see in front of you, sans purchasing. People follow you not for what you own, but for your point of view, and that’s something that money can’t buy (and therefor no creditor can take away from you).

  • It’s stupid, there ya go. But it’s your life and a major part of life is going through stages of self identity and figuring out what you love about yourself. It takes guts to even admit this about yourself because let’s be honest some people won’t admit anything at all. Honestly, in a sense your Instagram life is your “real” life. The pictures you take belong to you and it actually depicts what events transpired throughout your day. Now whether you’re flexing for the ‘gram is a different story, but the first step is acceptance and you’ve acknowledge what you enjoy doing is becoming a financial burden. I honestly think that you can easily cut back on your spending my switching out those real flowers for yet fake but just as gorgeous from a crafts store. Also what about posting some #foodporn home cooked meals you made. Instead of not wanting to be (virtually) seen in the same bikini or dress, get creative and show how you can wear the same dress but on different occasions dressed up or down. Basically, instead of going broke trying to show off to others you’re living the glam life, think about what’s more important: Your bank account or some people you’ve never met? Great read though girl.

  • Mal

    Oh dear God. Post a selfie and hashtag it #entitled #fake #poseur and then give 10% of your salary next month to feed hungry kids that you cannot possibly photograph.

  • This is so sincerely written! respect x

  • Amanda Clayman

    I am glad you wrote this. People will always find a way to criticize you when you tell the truth about your imperfections, which is why so many of us exhaust ourselves putting up a pretty, edited version of ourselves to face the public. More people struggle with this than you think. Ten+ years ago I realized I was an emotional spender, who was going into debt to buy clothes and spend money I didn’t have going out with friends. It turned out none of us had the money do do that, and when I got honest with myself, it had the effect of helping others be honest, too. It’s just, someone has to do it first. Because money touches all aspects of our lives, getting financially healthy has a way of being personally transformative. I paid off $19,000 of debt and ended up changing careers. Now I do something I’m really passionate about, helping people live stable, purpose-driven financial lives through my work as a certified financial social worker. If you’re honest with yourself first (screw those who will pick you apart for not being perfect), you will find your path. Good luck!

  • ICantOdd

    You are just another one of millions of insufferable, vapid, shallow millenial cunts…why is any of this tripe worth writing about?

    • Cheryl Nicholl

      Wow. Really unnecessary.

      • Joe Mama

        The language was harsh but I don’t think they’re wrong

  • iankee

    Kudos to you for stepping out, but you should probably stop living this online fantasy that you and so many others are doing it just because they crave attention.

  • Lou Daprile

    So many people do this, even with out instagram. Living above your means is a rush. At least instagram is a more fulfilling and harmless outlet that many. Kudos for your honesty and turning things around.

  • Madame Egg

    Confession is good for the soul, or maybe the first step in changing yourself. I have never instagrammed or twittered and I left facebook last year due to feeling like my privacy was invaded among other reasons but it seems like you truly desire some of the emotions and experiences you are staging and taking photos of. You feel you need the validation from others and yes, you would like this fine life you portray. Nothing wrong with that. But to me it seems like a never ending game of never being content nor satisfied if your self esteem and self worth come from someone pressing a “like” button. There will always be someone whom you perceive as to having more money, more fun times and more photo op experiences and you stay stuck in a never ending hamster wheel of depression and competition. I agree with someone else here that said to go on a social media break. Leave the camera at home and take a walk because that’s what you want to do. Live in the moment , not in the past or needing other people’s validation. Try something new, have a new experience and get to know yourself better for you. Then when you get your mind focused again, see if all of those interests depicted in your photos really rock your boat and go manifest them. If you’re happy within, then this internal conflict between this amazing photogenic life compared to your own “boring” life will cease to bother you and kind of blend into one life, your own, not your followers using you for their own escape.

  • Diego Mantaring

    see, this is why I actually stopped using Instagram for a long time. People tend to get insecure and would want approval from the internet. Hopefully, you can recover from your debt and have anew life or something

  • Sounds like I will fall become like this too?


  • Thank you for sharing! Love the honesty!