Smart Money Podcast – Overcome Impulsive Shopping: Strategies to Resist Social Media Spending Triggers

Understand the urge to spend money while scrolling on social media and learn strategies to control impulsive purchases.
Amanda Barroso
Sean Pyles
By Sean Pyles and  Amanda Barroso 
Published
Edited by Kevin Berry

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Welcome to NerdWallet’s Smart Money podcast, where we answer your real-world money questions. In this episode:

Understand the urge to spend money while scrolling on social media and learn strategies to control impulsive purchases.

How does social media influence spending habits?

What are practical strategies to spend less money while scrolling?

Hosts Sean Pyles and Amanda Barroso discuss the psychological tricks of social media and emotional spending to help you understand the subconscious factors that drive your online purchases. Amanda interviews Jillian Knight, a licensed marriage and family therapist and founder of the private therapy practice Her Financial Therapy, about the cycle of shame in impulsive buying, the importance of awareness before and during online activity, and practical tips like removing stored credit card information to prevent automatic purchases.

Then, Amanda talks to Dr. Brian Boxer Wachler, a medical director at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Beverly Hills, about the addictive nature of social media. They discuss the dopamine-driven compulsion to scroll, setting app time limits, and engaging in alternative activities that boost dopamine in healthier ways.

Both guests offer insights on how to break the cycle of impulse buying, overcome social media addiction and maintain healthier spending habits, with strategies for recognizing emotional triggers, intentionally disconnecting from social media and finding joy in non-digital activities.

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Have a money question? Text or call us at 901-730-6373. Or you can email us at [email protected].

To hear previous episodes, go to the podcast homepage.

Episode transcript

This transcript was generated from podcast audio by an AI tool.

Sean Pyles:

Scrolling, scrolling, scrolling, spend. Scrolling, scrolling, scrolling, spend. Does this sound like you? Scrolling through all of your various social media feeds, seeing an ad or an influencer suggesting you buy something, and then buying it? Today, we're going to find out what's happening in your brain when you do that and how to keep from going overboard. Welcome to NerdWallet's Smart Money Podcast. I'm Sean Pyles.

Amanda Barroso:

And I'm Amanda Barroso.

Sean Pyles:

Amanda, welcome to the host chair here at Smart Money.

Amanda Barroso:

It's great to be here, Sean. I'm really excited to explore this question of how our money habits are influenced by influencers, I guess, and ads, and all of the other ways that social media tries to get us to buy stuff.

Sean Pyles:

Yeah. You came to us a while ago suggesting an episode about this. Do you want to share why?

Amanda Barroso:

Yeah, so I did a little self-reflecting about my social media habits, and I noticed that the nights that I spent scrolling Instagram and TikTok for hours, I not only just felt awful by the end of the night, but I also ended up spending money on things that were not even on my radar when I woke up that morning. I had just all of these digital shopping carts full of stuff scattered across the internet and it got me thinking about the dynamics at play when I log into my social media accounts and just how mindless scrolling can have a real impact on my budget.

Sean Pyles:

I've been there many times before. It seems like the evenings when I'm most exhausted are those when I am also most susceptible to this type of behavior, and I never feel good after. That's compared with nights when I make the concerted effort to read a book or an article or just clean up around the house. I always feel more centered and calm going to bed in those evenings. But that said, the shiny screen of my phone and the impulse to spend that it inspires are so hard to resist.

Amanda Barroso:

The science has told us that this isn't just some random decision by people to start spending more. I was reading about a study from some American and Canadian economists back in 2019, which is like a century ago in internet time, and even back, then they were talking about something called visibility bias.

Sean Pyles:

Visibility. Okay, let me guess. We see so much more consumption now via all of these social media feeds, and so we end up participating in it?

Amanda Barroso:

Essentially, yes. This can affect both our spending and saving. The idea is that we all take cues as to how well we're doing in life by looking at how other people are doing, right? It's just normal behavior. We're basing that on what we see. Now, before the advent of social media, we weren't bombarded with all of these constant cues showing us how everybody else was doing, with posts on Facebook and Instagram, TikTok, YouTube. About their new clothes, their cars, their houses, vacations, grocery hauls, what they're making for dinner. But now, we've got all of that.

Sean Pyles:

Of course, what we don't see is savings, unless it's like the TikToker we profiled in May who did video diaries of paying down her credit cards.

Amanda Barroso:

Exactly. Then, pile on targeted advertising, which tracks where we go online and figures out how to send us the perfect ad to make us buy something we already want. Then, there's the influencer economy, where popular personalities online are paid to tell us what we should buy.

Sean Pyles:

There's also the fact that you can just press a button to buy something online and poof, there goes your money and you barely have time to notice what you're doing, and your brain isn't helping you avoid this behavior.

Amanda Barroso:

Right. These economists basically found that when we see this kind of consumption, like when we see others consuming heavily, we make an assumption. We infer that their prospects for the future are favorable. They're able to buy these things, they must be doing great. Our brains take that as a lesson that consumption equals good for us.

Sean Pyles:

That's wild.

Amanda Barroso:

It is. It's a consumption contagion.

Sean Pyles:

All right. Well, we want to hear what you think about all of this, listeners. To share your stories about overconsumption or succumbing to influencer advertising, or anything else with us, leave us a voicemail or text the Nerd hotline at 901-730-6373. That's 901-730-N-E-R-D. Or email a voice memo to [email protected]. Amanda, who are we hearing from today?

Amanda Barroso:

Well, we're going to start today with Jillian Knight. She's a licensed marriage and family therapist out of Raleigh, North Carolina. She's the founder of the private therapy practice Her Financial Therapy. Jillian Knight, welcome to Smart Money.

Jillian Knight:

Thank you so much for having me.

Amanda Barroso:

I'm so glad to have you here. In your experience as a licensed marriage and family therapist, what links do you see between social media usage and emotional or mindless spending?

Jillian Knight:

I've seen this a lot and I'm sure that it affects a lot of different people, from what I can tell, but the people that I tend to work with are women. I've seen this more with moms with young kids and in women in college. I've had conversations through the sessions that I've had with clients, and I think there are some understandable reasons for it.

Amanda Barroso:

Can you describe a little bit more about what's happening with those clients? What are they doing and what are they feeling in this process? Why are they seeking out your help?

Jillian Knight:

I think that it is an extension or a combination of the use of social media and the scrolling is one thing, and then you have the spending. They're both behaviors that we go to to try to meet our needs in a variety of ways. The scrolling is often trying to escape or trying to not feel certain feelings, or looking for something that we're not getting elsewhere. That might be looking for connection, looking for distraction, looking for excitement or something to keep our interest. The shopping actually functions in a very similar way. As social media has progressed, we've now got the opportunity to combine those two things together, somewhat unfortunately.

Before, it was a lot of the scrolling. Now, you have the scrolling plus it's really, really easy to push a button and spend money within that mindset or that emotional state.

Amanda Barroso:

You mentioned some reasons why people, especially you're thinking about moms or young women in college, these two groups that you see a lot in your practice, turn to social media as a form of escape or connection or retreat. I'm just wondering, in your professional opinion, what are these two groups of people escaping or retreating from? Is there a bigger picture that we should be thinking about here?

Jillian Knight:

I'll be honest, it depends. It depends on the person. But what I've observed is high levels of stress for various reasons. Usually, a combination of what's going on with work, what's going on with parenting, what's going on with your partner, what's going on in the world that is just compounding this level of stress that we can only tolerate so much of before we look for what is easily going to make us feel better. The other chemical that is involved in, both in scrolling on social media and in these more impulsive purchases or just purchasing things in general, is the dopamine and sometimes serotonin that give you that boost of feel-good chemicals in your brain and in your body. So I think that a lot of it seems to be the stress that a lot of us are under.

Amanda Barroso:

I'm wondering if we take a step back from thinking about specific people and just thinking about the social media marketing sort of, not even a craze, it's not a fad, I think it's here to stay, but how is this impacting people's budgets and financial goals? People are running to the internet because they feel stressed and then potentially adding more stress to their plates because they're spending maybe emotionally or buying things that an influencer tells them to buy. I'm just wondering how you see that play out in your work as a financial therapist.

Jillian Knight:

I think that I see it play out, for a lot of people, there is not as much of a connection that they're able to make between, if I buy this, it will impact my budget. Because, one, maybe they don't have a budget, but two, sometimes it can be a smaller purchase or seem small. One purchase of $24.99 does not sound like that much. If you're doing it every day, then that adds up. Especially if it's connected to something like a credit card, where because it's an impulsive process that there's no intentionality behind it. There's no like, "Oh, let me pause and go check my bank account or my budget." Which is another thing, some people will check their bank account, when that's not actually the amount of money that they have to spend. It's just how much money is in the bank at the time.

But then, also there's the use of the credit card, "Oh, well I'll just pay this off." But there's a lot of disconnect between the behavior of scrolling and spending, and then it's the immediate gratification that you get, but then later on realizing how much that actually adds up to be.

Amanda Barroso:

I'm wondering if there is some tension around this that plays out in your couples therapy sessions too, where it might be more likely that a family has a budget compared with a college student, but thinking about a family and a household, is this showing up at all in your work with couples where they're struggling? Like a gender dynamic perhaps, where it's this kind of spending which is being influenced by social media use causing friction or problems in a marriage?

Jillian Knight:

I have seen this recently. I've had some couples who are younger couples with younger kids, heterosexual couples. Something I've seen as part of it being that a lot of times the woman or the mom ends up being the one making sure that everybody has what they need. Some of that can fall under purchasing things on Amazon or elsewhere. Some of that could be needs. Some of that could be wants. Sometimes if there is not a healthy dynamic between the partners around money, then any box that shows up could be, "Oh, gosh, there's another box again. What did they spend on that they didn't need?" Then they're being in some of these cases credit card debt that is impacting their ability to save for the future and save long-term, and get on the same page together.

I think there's an element of the importance of noticing the mental load that's on a lot of moms and how it can sometimes be more convenient to order more of an item or it can be one less thing that they have to think about when there's so much else to think about in terms of running a household.

Amanda Barroso:

If you've worked with women and moms, young people who have found themselves in this cycle, where they're escaping their stress by going online, when they go online they shop, and it might lead to financial stress, this sort of endless loop. What kinds of feelings does this engender? What kinds of things do you see happening there emotionally?

Jillian Knight:

Yeah, there are a lot of feelings associated with money. In this case, I do think that there is at least some level of a cycle of shame going on, where there might be some stress or anxiety about something. Then, in an effort to soothe themselves in a way they turn to social media and spending. Then, either right away or when the boxes come, there's a lot of shame around that.

There's a lot of shame around those decisions which don't really feel like decisions. They feel a lot more like automatic responses. Then, because you have now felt the shame instead of a different process of working through those emotions, it's likely that that will just happen again as opposed to doing something different the next time.

Amanda Barroso:

Let's say you meet with somebody who wants to break that cycle, they want to do something different. What advice do you give them, who struggle? The people who struggle with being easily influenced? I'm one of those things, right? Disengaging altogether from social media just doesn't seem totally realistic. Are there some financial tips or strategies that people can use to stop themselves in their tracks?

Jillian Knight:

Yeah, so I don't think that just telling people “then don't get on social media,” is not a realistic solution. What I usually would suggest with my clients is becoming more aware of what's happening before and during this process of getting online, of scrolling, of shopping, of noticing. Because it can be a very automatic process of starting to notice even if you still do the behavior. You're just gathering information about “How am I feeling?” as I'm thinking about getting on my phone and scrolling? Anything that you can start to do to slow down the process so that there's more time to actually make a decision about it as opposed to it being something that you do pretty automatically.

Bringing awareness to it, noticing that this is what's happening, noticing how you're feeling in your body, it can be helpful to put some things in place that are some safeguards, right? Like, where is your card information stored? Can we un-store it so that you have to walk to your card, pick it up, and manually enter it? Something that at least gives you some time to process that decision. As you're working towards doing this list, it's important to, instead of shaming yourself for it, seeing if you can connect to some empathy for yourself that you're feeling stressed. This is the internal dialogue of like, "Okay, I'm feeling stressed. I'm not going to beat myself up about it, but I am going to notice this is what I was feeling. This is what I needed. Next time I'm going to try to give myself that instead." The more that you can do that, it becomes less of something that you need to do in order to feel better.

Amanda Barroso:

I'm thinking now about part of this, at least of what you're describing is helping people reclaim intentionality and the power sometimes that it feels like the algorithms have on our behavior. You mentioned erasing credit card information from your phone. For me, the ease of being able to lay on my couch at night while I'm watching a show with my husband and like, "Oh, this bathing suit from J. Crew looks great." Shopify pops up, everything's populated. I think if I had to get up off the couch, like you said, and walk to my wallet, it would distance me a little bit from the impulse to the purchase point. I think that's an amazing tip.

I'm wondering what other kind of guardrails, those financial pieces of advice, that you would give us, give your clients who want to have some real tangible steps in place here to try to stop the behavior in its tracks?

Jillian Knight:

Think about what you are trying to get at. What is this giving you that you're not getting otherwise? What need is this filling? If you're looking for connection, are there other people that you could be connecting with? Even if it's not quite as easy to initiate that connection, or if you are looking for something that's going to lift your mood, listen to some music that you really like. Thinking through what you could potentially replace this with. Then also, you can put in some times of the day that you know that you're more likely to do this and put your phone on the other side of the room. You can think about, if there are things that you... say, for instance, like a bathing suit.

You know that summer's coming. Instead of looking at them on a random Tuesday night, maybe you could make a list of the things that you're anticipating that you might like to have for summer and spend some time researching them, and the enjoyment of the window shopping or the looking around and keeping track of some of those things. Just bringing some more mindfulness to that process. It's not like you don't get the things, but you just might not get quite as many or you would be more likely to stay within the spending that you would like to stay within.

Amanda Barroso:

One thing I've done, and I don't know if maybe some of your clients have done this too, is in a notes app, if I'm finding that I'm like, oh, I'm scrolling, and it's like this mom has this J. Crew bathing suit, it's not even that I want connection or whatever, it's just like, she just looks so damn cool in it. I find that if I open a notes app and put the thing down on a list and just say like, "Okay, we're going to see how we feel about it in two days." They'll probably even have a sale on it in two days. Sometimes I find when I come back to the list, the need for that thing has really fizzled.

Jillian Knight:

Yeah, that's a great strategy.

Amanda Barroso:

Well, Jillian Knight, thank you so much for being here with us today.

Jillian Knight:

Yeah, thank you so much for having me. It's really my pleasure.

Sean Pyles:

Jillian's tips about observing how you're feeling both in your body and mentally when you're scrolling, and setting up guardrails to prevent yourself from making impulse purchases, really resonate with me. It reminds me of the acronym HALT, which stands for hungry, angry, lonely, tired. This is a tactic to check in on yourself when you're feeling bad so you can practice healthy coping mechanisms. When you feel the impulse to scroll all night and purchase random stuff, ask yourself if you're feeling any of those things. If you are hungry, angry, lonely, tired. If so, try to address the core issue instead of turning to our knee-jerk cure-all, social media, and buying something. Because, Amanda, as we both know, it's a pretty superficial way of being soothed.

Amanda Barroso:

Listen, there is nothing that a snack cannot cure in my mind, but you're right that it is superficial. It can create a vicious cycle that's hard to escape, though. That's the thing, it's superficial, but there can be some harm here. You buy something to soothe the stress, but then those charges start piling up on your credit card and a new kind of stress sets in. Then, you buy something to feel better because you have credit card debt now and then on and on it goes.

Sean Pyles:

Yup. This is clearly something new and different for our brains, just like so many other parts of life that have changed since the advent of social media and one-click ordering.

Amanda Barroso:

It is, for sure. Next, we're going to hear from someone who has both experience with what social media can do to us, and he also practices medicine. Dr. Brian Boxer Wachler is a medical director at the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Beverly Hills. He's also the author of a book called Influenced: The Impact of Social Media on Our Perception.

Sean Pyles:

That's coming up in a moment. Stay with us.

Amanda Barroso:

Dr. Boxer Wachler, welcome to Smart Money.

Brian Boxer Wachler:

It's a pleasure to be here, Amanda. Thanks for having me.

Amanda Barroso:

I'm so happy that you can join us today because I need to know what happens to my brain, to our brains, when we log into social media.

Brian Boxer Wachler:

Where do we even want to start? A lot. When we think of social media in the beginning, it was really intended to be a great way for people to reconnect with perhaps lost classmates or lost friends. Then, it really transformed into this dopamine slot machine, like gambling, because there's so much content out there, and a lot of really good content, I might add. But it gives us such satisfaction to watch these videos, it's literally like pulling these old levers of a slot machine, and you just never know when you are scrolling, for example, on social media, if you're going to get a video that's really exciting and you're going to rewatch it multiple times, or you're just going to sit and you just scroll on to the next one.

What it's doing at a neurological level, neurochemical level is stimulating basically a substance called dopamine, which is the feel-good hormone, if you will, or neurotransmitter. It's what's behind why people use drugs or do certain activities that make them feel good, because of the dopamine that we all want and makes us have that buzz or high, if you will. That's really what's happening nowadays with social media in our brains, in a nutshell.

Amanda Barroso:

Okay, so you kind of answered my next question, which is just why social media is so addicting, like what are the properties that make it so addicting. It's giving us this hit of dopamine every time we come across a piece of content that we like or we get a friend request or something like that, is what you're saying. That's creating that addictive component.

Brian Boxer Wachler:

Exactly. That's really what's happening. A friend of mine, Dr. Matt Torrington, is an addiction specialist and he likens drug use, for example, which is what his specialty is, is like every time you get a coin or a nickel it makes you feel good. Then, with really intense hardcore drugs, it's like getting a hundred dollars or a thousand dollars worth of dopamine. Social media isn't quite like that, but it can be getting pretty close to that, which is why there's now a term called social media addiction, which I myself experienced, particularly with TikTok because of the dopamine release that you're getting. In my case, for example, it wasn't necessarily the content, but it was when I was growing my following, which is now three and a half million followers on TikTok, for example.

I was just so in over my head because I'd be waking up in the morning and getting 10,000, 20,000, 30,000 new followers and I just became obsessed with growing my platform and putting out good content and monitoring people's responses to my content that it was just basically a tidal wave of dopamine. That's from a content creator point of view that I experienced. But from a user point of view, that's why you have people now going hours and hours and losing track of time because they're just watching and watching and it's just a great experience. It's too great of an experience, basically. That's really what's happening when people do get addicted to it. A lot of times they don't even have insight that that's even happening.

Amanda Barroso:

When I sign on at night, I've put the kids to bed, I'm getting served tons of personalized content by an algorithm that kind of knows me. The message is just like, buy things. If you buy this thing, here's my Amazon storefront. Buy this, you could be a cool mom. These are the kind of messages that I'm getting. Can you talk a little bit about the toll that you think that that can take on users psychologically day after day, the messages to buy things?

Brian Boxer Wachler:

Now, I'm going to answer your question based on children/teens, and then for adults, because there are two different answers to a degree. But what's happening with children is that their brains are still developing until about the age of 25. When we're seeing these brain changes, even looking at functional MRI studies, there are aspects that are being measured when they are seeing, for example, content that's not getting a good reaction versus content that's getting a lot of likes and shares and comments, and it stimulates various areas in their brain. That is helping to almost bring them to a dependency level on social media to the degree that it can even exclude them being able to develop true social skills.

We don't even know the long-term changes that are happening because we don't have 25 years of follow-up on what teens' brains and their behaviors look like after social media. From an adult point of view, adults have definitely, when they're in over their head and being somewhat addicted, can be neglecting their family responsibilities. Neglecting showing up to work on time or even at work being on social media, distracting them from being productive and getting their job done. Basically, it can have a negative impact for both teens, kids, and adults, but in different ways.

Amanda Barroso:

I'm wondering if you can tell me about what's happening in our brains or what are our brains doing when we see influencers and others saying how great this product is, like when Kim Kardashian is like, "Oh my gosh, this product changed my life." Is it any different than being exposed to a commercial on TV? Because when I think about it personally, it does feel different. One feels more powerful to me. The TV ad I've trained myself to ignore in a way that I just can't seem to ignore what I'm being served on social media.

Brian Boxer Wachler:

I would say that influencers by definition are called this because of their ability to persuade and to influence. When you watch a TV ad, what you're seeing is something that you know is paid for marketing. But if you are watching somebody who you follow, you respect, who's an influencer, even influencers as low as 10,000 followers can be doing sponsored ads, and people come to love and trust and feel that they know the influencer or the content creator. When they then endorse a product or a service, there's a lot more persuasiveness versus if you watch a TV ad, because you feel you have a personal connection. In my book Influenced, I had written about all aspects of social media based on my personal experience and also based on the research.

There's a pseudo relationship that occurs psychologically. That's also part of why we see it's a

multi-billion dollar business with influencer marketing now. Because advertisers know that influencers have a much stronger connection than a TV ad of an actor who's doing it that way. That's why you feel differently when you see an influencer doing a sponsored post.

Amanda Barroso:

Something that I saw recently in the Wall Street Journal is an article about money dysmorphia. I'm not sure if you've seen this term floating around. The idea, this is from the Wall Street Journal, is, "TikTok is creating a disconnect between how well-off young adults actually are and how well they think they're doing." Because so many young Americans under 30, let's say, get their information about money from TikTok, it's shaping the way that they handle money, how they perceive money. I'm wondering what you think of this term, money dysmorphia. I'm also thinking about body dysmorphia and how it's a riff off of that, but I don't know. I'm wondering what you think about this idea or this term.

Brian Boxer Wachler:

There's definitely an amplification of certain messages on social media. The algorithms, whether something is accurate or inaccurate, it's irrelevant, but the algorithms choose what to promote in terms of videos based on, for example, the percentage of people that rewatched a video, the percentage of people that watched a video to completion. Then, this is a popular video and they'll push it out there. So we have an amplification which may or may not be reflective of reality across the board. With money related videos like you're talking about, certainly, there are people who are advocating eating everything, like pure free range, organic, which is more expensive and is harder to afford on a regular basis.

That could perhaps persuade people, prompt people to be spending more money on that or other things too that then they feel like they don't have as much savings or as much buying power for later putting a down payment on a home or something like that. On the flip side, we also see more people are showcasing big fancy homes where they live, which is usually a small percentage of the population that that's the reality for, but can make people feel like, "Well, I can never really afford a home like that." It's affecting my value as a person because I see this glorified on social media, which is also not really a fair thing to happen to people as well. I can see working on two psychological ways that people might feel dysmorphic in terms of their financial situation.

Amanda Barroso:

I really like how you described that because it could be just a few videos that show up on thousands of people's For You page on TikTok, and all of a sudden it seems like everybody has achieved this status, that really it's just a handful of folks. I'm thinking about how this episode idea came to be, which was just out of my own personal experience of scrolling at night and feeling really bad, like being, just put your phone down and read a book and just not being able to stop. I'm wondering, if using social media in this way for hours a day makes us feel bad or it presents opportunities for us to just overspend, or we know better than to click on this thing, why do we keep logging in? What is going on in our brain?

Brian Boxer Wachler:

It goes back to what we were talking about earlier, Amanda, which is the dopamine stimulation. You're pulling the slot machine every time you're picking up the phone and scrolling, whether it's TikTok or Instagram, etc. That's what's at work, is really the dopamine release. A lot of people do have some negative psychological effects from scrolling for so long. Eventually you just get fatigued and don't feel good about yourself, guilty that you spent hours on the phone when you neglected something else perhaps. We definitely have seen that. I think that's also at play as well.

Amanda Barroso:

I want to talk lastly here about some solutions. It doesn't feel realistic in this day and age to tell people to just log off social media. I'm wondering what you think are some realistic guardrails that people can implement to mitigate the influence of social media on their lives. How can we create some distance?

Brian Boxer Wachler:

Yeah, so these would be my top recommendations, is number one, set limits in your app on how many minutes you want to spend on the app. Then, when you hit that limit, it'll shut down or at least give you the warning to log off and stop. Number two, don't keep your smartphone by your bed. When you wake up in the morning and when you go to sleep at night, that's usually the last thing that you're going to be looking at, and you're going to be tempted to check your social media right when you wake up in the morning. My recommendation is buy an old school alarm clock. Keep your phone in another room so that when you go to bed you're not on it and when you wake up, you're not going to grab it for the first time either.

Then, also do other activities that stimulate dopamine. I write about this in the book, but just doing sports, exercise, that's a great dopamine release. Also, laughter and even listening to some comedy albums or recordings can also stimulate your dopamine by laughing, humor. Then, also even some scents like lavender have been shown to stimulate dopamine. There's lots more I write about in the book, but those are some of the top ones.

Amanda Barroso:

I think that those are really great suggestions. I'm going to implement some of those in my own life. Dr. Brian, thank you so much for joining us today. I learned a ton about how my brain is working, so thank you so much for being here.

Brian Boxer Wachler:

Well, thank you, Amanda, for having me. It was a pleasure.

Sean Pyles:

I really liked how Dr. Brian talked about both the dopamine slot machine that is social media and how the emotional connection we have with influencers and to some extent the platforms themselves make the ads that we see so sticky. It's like a perfect trap for the reptilian part of our brain. But, Amanda, I'm wondering, have you ever tried any of Dr. Brian's techniques to regain control over your social media and smartphone usage?

Amanda Barroso:

The addictive qualities of social media are really hard to deny. I think Dr. Brian's suggestion to set time limits for apps and put your phone in another room at night are things that might be easy for me to implement. For me, I've created a note in my phone where I jot down things I'm tempted to buy and I give myself a few days and go back to it. If I still or need the thing and it's in my budget, then I give myself permission to buy it. What about you, Sean?

Sean Pyles:

Well, I have time limits for my two primary time sucks, TikTok and Instagram, but if I'm being honest, I regularly disregard those. I once changed my phone screen settings to grayscale, so it was essentially in black and white and was much less appealing to look at. That actually worked for a few months, but then I got bored and I just reverted back to a life of ultra saturated colors.

Amanda Barroso:

I like Dr. Brian's suggestions for how to find dopamine in other ways. These are things that we've heard before, like getting some exercise, listening to music. One thing that I started doing is just reevaluating what I'm trying to get from social media. I recently unfollowed influencers who were constantly just trying to sell me something, like everything was an Amazon storefront or a like to know it page or something. I followed accounts that were dedicated to more slow living or thrifting, because Sean, I'm in my home decoration era right now. I'm not sure if you knew that.

It's been great to see these beautiful homes that were styled slowly and mindfully with often things from thrift stores, Goodwill, things like that. The plus side about that is there's not an Amazon storefront.

Sean Pyles:

Amanda, I think it's really helpful to hear this kind of information for a couple reasons. First, there are in fact ways to start to try to trick your brain into avoiding these kinds of behaviors. It's not going to be easy all the time, but it's worth trying if you are someone who finds themselves being influenced to the point of clicking a buy button. Second, I also find it's so good to know that if this is something you do, that you're not alone. It's common enough that there are books written about it and financial therapists are dealing with it with their clientele.

Amanda Barroso:

We all have behaviors that we wish we didn't have or things that we do that we wish we didn't succumb to. This might not rank up there with stuff that's super worrisome. But for a lot of folks, this scrolling and spending behavior can have a detrimental effect on finances and mental well-being, so it's all about baby steps.

Sean Pyles:

Yeah, sometimes that's the best we can do. Well, Amanda, thank you so much for bringing us this episode today.

Amanda Barroso:

It's been a pleasure as always, Sean.

Sean Pyles:

For now, that is all we have. If you have a money question for the Nerds, send it to us by calling or texting the Nerd hotline at 901-730-6373. That's 901-730-N-E-R-D. You can also email us at [email protected]. Visit nerdwallet.com/podcast for more info on this episode, and remember to follow, rate, and review us wherever you're getting this podcast.

Amanda Barroso:

This episode was produced by Tess Vigeland. Sean helped with editing. Kevin Berry helped with fact checking. Sara Brink mixed our audio, and a big thank you to NerdWallet's editors for all their help.

Sean Pyles:

Here's our brief disclaimer. We are not financial or investment advisors. This nerdy info is provided for general educational and entertainment purposes and may not apply to your specific circumstances.

Amanda Barroso:

With that said, until next time, turn to the Nerds.