This problem pre-dates social media but it is likely that social media has amplified some of its effects:
“We’ve gone from a culture that prized hard work, frugality and discretion as the central tenets of the American Dream to a culture that prized celebrity, bling and narcissism.”
Television has played a big role in promoting celebrities. Social media, especially Instagram but also Facebook, creates an environment for self promotion – making oneself the center of attention. Back in the old days, self esteem came from real accomplishment whereas now, it seems to come from having the most likes on Instagram where the focus is on the cute, rather than the clever.
As the filmmaker says, we used to associate with and view ourselves in comparison to our immediate neighbors. Today, we associate with (or fantasize that we associate with) the richest and the cutest on television and social media, and compare ourselves to them. This might be driving people to unrealistic aspirations for wealth just for the sake of wealth with many becoming obsessed with “lavish lifestyles”.
Social media undoubtedly plays a role in creating this obsession.