It’s confession time: I like to Keep Up with the Kardashians.Up until reading a recent headline saying watching The Kardashians makes you a “worse” person, my only hesitation to watch this show had been my own conscience.
Each time I sink into the couch anticipating this bedazzled joyride, there is always a part of me that looks on in judgment saying, “How can you enjoy a show that is so lightweight?
The Kardashians is the cotton candy of Reality TV; beautiful to look at, devoid of any real sustenance but difficult to resist.
Watching this show definitely proves I have a shallow side but does it actually make me – or you - a worse person?
DOES HAVING MORE RESULT IN HAVING LESS?
The suggestion that watching Keeping Up with the Kardashians is problematic comes from studies that look at the correlation between money and happiness, empathy and compassion.
I would love to ask the Kardashians directly about how money has affected their happiness. But based on pure observation, I’ve noticed that as the years have passed and their fortunes have skyrocketed, the sisters seem less playful and more glum. They also appear more disconnected from one another. Unless they are feuding or dealing with a drama, they seem to be most preoccupied with their iPhone or a salad.
But observation aside, let’s look at some of what some of the research says about money and well-being:
Money priming is a concept that suggests that when people are visually exposed to money images, they end up behaving in more anti-social ways. According to the research, people who are money primed feel less emotionally connected to others.
Berkeley researchers Paul Piff and Dacher Keltner suggest that having excessive money reduces empathy and compassion. Their research showed that people who drive luxury cars are more prone to cut other drivers off and disregard pedestrian cross walks. They claim that people with more money are less compassionate and empathetic.
Right in our own backyard, Macleans magazine revealed that children living in the exclusive enclave of the British Properties in West Vancouver are deemed as “vulnerable.” This was based on the childrens’ lack of language as well as their slow emotional and social development. Factoring in that many of them are first generation immigrants, this study suggests that many of these children are cloistered behind wrought iron gates and lack the opportunities to socialize versus their less affluent friends.
And finally getting back to the Kardashian clan, The London School of Economics (LSE) suggests that watching even a minute of what they call “Materialistic Media” (i.e. the Kardashians) significantly increased “anti-welfare sentiment.” In a nutshell, you’ll be less inclined to want to give to or support others who are less fortunate while your desire for materialism and wealth increases.
WHY MONEY DOESN’T MEAN HAPPINESS
While we would assume that more money equals more happiness, Purdue University and numerous other studies (Kahneman and Deaton) consistently show that the sweet spot of earning and feeling emotional well-being is actually $75K per year.
After an hour of the Kardahsians, I’m not sure if I believe that watching this show makes me a worse person per se but I can’t say that I feel any better off for it.
For starters, watching the Kardashian’s wealth does nothing to help me – or you - increase our skills or ability to earn. And between seeing their pampered lifestyles and how their family friend makes a small fortune by eating his way around under the moniker of “Food God”, I can’t help but feel like I’m missing out.
But then I remember that having excessive money itself doesn’t equate with happiness.
One of the possible reasons for this is that humans are inherently social creatures. Excessive money can take us away from the bonds that we need in order to thrive.
From the get go, babies soothe and innately regulate their emotions by interacting with other people – not with printed bills of paper or stock options. It’s the relationship between child and caregiver that necessitates healthy development.
The above-mentioned studies suggest that wealthier people are by and large more self-sufficient which can increase the risk of them being more insular. This can lead to focus more on oneself and less on developing relationships that require connection and empathy.
Humans are wired for attachment. That means we will attach to equal opportunity providers - be it money, people, alcohol or drugs. Anything that provides powerful experiences to change mood and a sense of well-being will be something we will want to develop attachments to. But people consistently run into problems when they attach more to inanimate objects than to people.
Those who attend Alcoholics Anonymous know very well that in spite of their socio-economic status, reaching out to help and genuinely connect to others is the best way of helping themselves stay sober and living well.
MONEY – THE SWEETEST TABOO
My job is to tackle topics that don’t come up over a casual coffee.
I hear about people’s heartache stemming from the painful family systems they are born into; how a lack of self-esteem decimates people’s efforts to feel good about themselves and the lives they live. I hear about how unhealthy pursuits of compulsive sex, high intensity relationships, alcohol and drugs can destroy a person’s life.
I hear about everything.
Except for money.
Of all the things we deem as taboo, perhaps nothing is as taboo for us as money and our relationship with it.
Money in and of itself is just metal and paper but the sticking point is the meaning we give to it.
Although the research tells us that money doesn’t guarantee happiness it’s curious why we keep pursuing it?
For starters, money is emotional.
Both work and money buys different things for different people: freedom; order; competence; belonging. (Doyle)
As long as money holds the promise of something that we value, we will continue to pursue it.
Additionally, many people think that they will be the ones who will feel differently about money.
You might find yourself saying “If I had that much money, I would be happy. I would treat it differently. I’m not like everyone else.”
I can’t tell you how you would feel if you had millions in the bank. But if you are looking for first-hand experience, it’s interesting to ponder over Jim Carrey’s words:
“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.”
I work with a range of financial disorders – including gambling, debting, underearning and workaholism. While I am not a financial advisor, I can help you better understand your relationship with money so that you can make healthier decisions around it. If you are ready to tackle the taboo in your life, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org