Dominic Thomas
April 2024  •  4 min read

Anti-social media

Confession, I am a hypocrite. As with most things, nuance is often lost in the polarity of opinion. My ability to pontificate is at least as good as yours, so I start with an apology and an admission … that I am far from perfect.

Social media is something I enjoy and loathe. In reality, it is designed for precisely this experience, to push your buttons of joy and despair. I used to be a regular Twitter user but as it became increasingly incendiary, I gave up the habit. Some things lost, but mainly time gained. I kept my Facebook and Instagram accounts open, which I largely use to share images that are born from a love of photography, you can see these if you wish.

Judging by most people’s terrible profile pictures, it would seem that many people use their phone’s camera much like they used their film camera, apparently unaware of the tools to edit or help. In short, the art of re-presentation. We are all aware of this idealisation towards perfection, it’s nothing new and whilst many think of glossy magazines and advertising, perhaps the foundations lie in early religious art, the Renaissance and the hundreds of portraits of the ruling classes.

In many respects, social media is nothing new. Ancient frescos are the Facebook of their day. More time was spent in their crafting, so arguably more deliberate with their nuanced messaging.

Scroll forward to the present day and we have opinion offered as fact by people who have little (if any) training or qualification in their chosen subject. ‘Finfluencers’ are the group that garner my attention. Those who talk about money whilst evidently unqualified to do so. We can of course pass this off with a “so what, I’m not mug enough” which may be true; maybe. To my mind it’s the speed of the message and lack of processing that is done; accepting as true without challenge. Life is too short, but I wonder what the long-term impact is on those less able to distinguish … after all, the impact is already a problem in politics.

By way of example, recently I saw a video post about building a deposit for a house and how saving £40 a day would enable you to buy a house in the north-east of England after 12 months. This is aimed at those aged under 35. £40 a day saved over a year is £14,600.  If we assume this is for a 10% deposit for a house. That would imply a 90% mortgage of £131,400 and an income of £37,542 to borrow that amount.

Someone earning £37,542 (which is above the national full time median wage £35,464*) should have a personal allowance of £12,570 but would pay income tax, national insurance and pension payments. At best, opting out of the workplace pension and having no student loan, the net (after tax and NI) take home monthly income would be £2,504 (£2,323 if you have a student loan and 5% auto-enrolment pension).  If you save £40 a day that’s £1,216 a month, leaving £1,288 (or £1,107) to live on each month.

Of course to earn £37,542 you need to work (and get to work) which means to retain your employed position, be healthy, rested and clothed and for any sense of a balanced life you probably have a holiday, buy presents for loved ones and perhaps attend a celebratory event, maybe the wedding of a friend. I am sure that it is possible to do all this on £297 a week, but it isn’t easy and if you happen to live in the South East it’s probably impossible unless you are living rent-free somewhere.

It’s also a challenge to find a home, flat or garage to buy for £131,400 but more possible in the North East. I ran a search on property for sale in Surrey, excluding buying schemes (which are a false economy at best, scam at worst, don’t get me started on leasehold v freehold) these started with listing a £175,000 which is basically a static home (shed). The cheapest listed terraced house £400,000, bungalow £315,000 and semi-detached £395,000. As ever, location is all and context is everything.

Even if you can buy for say £350,000 you would need a £35,000 deposit and a mortgage of £315,000 requiring an income of £90,000. Heck let’s try £200,000, you would still need a mortgage of £180,000 and income of £51,428. The deposit is only part of the problem, the other is your income to justify (qualify for) the loan. A smaller deposit simply means a larger mortgage, which needs a higher income to justify it. Of course this is much easier for a couple who both earn than someone who’s single. The entire housing market then relies on properties rising in value (as well as increased incomes) to ‘move up the ladder’, making it even harder for the next tranche of first time buyers.

Money provides choices, the lack of it limits options considerably.  Yes it is possible to save £40 a day and build a deposit of £14,600 over 12 months or £29,200 over 24. Short-term pain can be bearable, but is it realistic when we all know that food and energy inflation are much higher than stated by Government figures. This requires the sort of discipline that few of us actually possess (even fewer in Government!). Spending money is easy, saving it is really quite hard.

*Median UK wage April 2023 data, based on earned income ages 16-State Pension Age – reference HERE

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