Want to make friends? Lose the bling

If you want to make new friends you should leave flashy status symbols at home, suggests new research. Here’s why less really is more.

It might be Instagram photos of a luxury holiday in The Maldives.

Or the latest convertible Mercedes, or a diamond-encrusted Rolex, or that designer handbag you’ve coveted forever.

Most of us have had those moments of sheer green-eyed envy when we’ve met someone new and discovered that when it comes to material wealth, they’re doing very nicely, thank you very much.

But how likely are you to befriend that person?

Not that likely, according to the University of Michigan.

“Often times we think that status symbols – whether a luxury car like a BMW, a brand-name purse like Prada, or an expensive watch like Rolex – will make us look more socially attractive to others,” reports researcher Stephen Garcia.

“However, our research suggests that these status signals actually make us look less socially attractive, not more.”

“At a social level, we may be wasting billions of dollars on expensive status symbols that ultimately keep others from wanting to associate with us,” agreed researcher, Kimberlee Weaver Livnat.

“And to the extent that close friendships are important to wellbeing, we may be inadvertently hurting ourselves.”

So why are we less likely to make friends with people who surround themselves with flash and bling?

We prefer people like us

Dr Mandy Deeks, psychologist at the Health Information Company in Melbourne, says we are most comfortable when we’re surrounded by people we feel are the same as us.

“It helps us feel better about ourselves,” she says.

“We generally see the person flaunting their status symbols as being out of our reach and believe they are just going to make us feel bad.

“We don’t want to be reminded by that person of what we don’t have so we move away from them.”

Our self-esteem can take a battering

“If self-esteem is low and you see someone with a Ferrari, you think ‘they must be successful, that will never be me’,” says Dr Deeks.

“If you are confident in yourself, status symbols don’t define you and you’re not going to be worried about that Ferrari.”

Social media makes matters worse

Social media is fuelling how people perceive themselves, as well as ideas about appearance, attractiveness and wealth.

It can make people feel jealous and inadequate,” says Dr Deeks.

“But it does depend on whether people flaunt their success. If you recognise someone is successful because they have worked hard, you can feel differently towards them compared with someone who flaunts what they have.”

Dr Deeks says some people are inspired to achieve by status symbols.

“If you’re aspiring to those things for you, fine. But they won’t necessarily make other people attracted to you,” says Dr Deeks.

So, don’t expect your new luxury car to mean you will have more, or better, friends.

And if you do want to make new friends, it might be a good idea to leave the bling at home.

Did you hear? Gossip can actually be good for you. But if you’re struggling with friendships, take a look at our tips for dealing with poison people.

Written by Sarah Marinos.