When we work, we aren’t really working for money.
We work for the prospect of what we can buy using it, which is to say, money is just a measurement of value, of the time we’ve spent to earn it.
Which is why we spend the way we do — on anything that’s new, on sale or limited in production — because it implicitly justifies the hours we’ve spent to earn that money.
If we go to a restaurant and eat a bad meal, we’re not going to be upset because it’s a bad meal; we’re going to be upset because the money we spent, the time we spent to earn that money, wasn’t worth it.
Take airplane meals for example; nine out of ten times suck, yet we don’t complain, or throw tantrums nearly as much as we do when eating poorly at a restaurant — most of us don’t even mention it to our stewardesses because what we feel we’ve paid for is for the flight itself and not the features that come with it. It’s why some airlines can get away with charging for blankets, headphones or better seating — because we’re willing to pay for what feels like upgrades.
It’s also the reason why we act the way we do on Instagram — posting photos of our cars, our houses, the clothes we’ve bought, the vacations we’re on — because we want affirmation that the time we’ve spent to get those things (money) were worth it.
If we’re honest, most people don’t even care what’s posted; they can’t relate: what they do is project their own desires and experiences onto what you’ve shared.
When you post a picture of the new car you’ve bought, and they go, “oh wow! that’s amazing! Congratulations!,” they’re really thinking of their own car and the future cars they want to buy.
When you post pictures of your trip to Bali, what they’re really thinking about is the last time they went to Bali or somewhere similar on vacation.
And if they hear you’ve gotten married — what they’re really thinking about is their own relationship.
Years ago, when I still running a branding agency and doing work for a fertility center, we learned that the reason why photos with mothers holding onto their baby far outperformed that of photos with just the baby alone was because aspiring mothers could actually project themselves as the mother in the photo.
All of which is to really say, when we share our photos and status updates online, most people, other than close friends or family, won’t really care. It’s only for yourself — an echo chamber if you will.
But by doing so, we actually serve to devalue the entirety of the experience because we ask people whose opinions shouldn’t matter, whose self-interests lie before us, and who are likely to be as clueless as we are for affirmation, instead of fully immersing ourselves into that experience.
And that’s where the irony lies:
So what if we get a hundred, or even a thousand likes on our vacation photos? Will that make our actual vacation any better?
Will it matter how many people we’ve tagged in a photo if we can’t even connect with the very people we’re sitting at the table with?
Will it matter what kind of car we’re driving, if all we ever go to is really to and from a job that we hate? In a world where 70% of Americans hate their jobs — why would you want to get to work faster?
And why does it matter how huge our homes are, if we’re never home long enough to live in it?
All we’re doing is framing our experiences — not enjoying them. We feel such a constant need to justify our time spent working that we’ve forgotten how it feels to just live.
But if that’s all we’re doing, then would’ve been the point of all that we’ve worked so hard for?
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