Shopping while scrolling has likely hit even the strongest (or most frugal) of us at one point. Whether we’re asking if every chair within a 1-mile radius on Facebook Marketplace is “still available,” snagging those earrings that looked cute on some influencer, or buying slime as an adult, the online shopping bug finds us all in some form or another—hitting younger audiences especially hard.
The generations who grew up a bit more plugged in find themselves most vulnerable to the pull of online shopping. The majority of Gen Zers (60%) and millennials (61%) admit to impulse shopping because of social media in the past year, according to a new Bankrate survey that polled more than 3,500 people. Older generations aren’t immune to the siren’s call of the latest advertised gadget or novelty poster either, but say they’re less affected by it; 42% of Gen Xers and 34% of baby boomers admitted to impulse shopping online this year.
“Young adults are especially likely to be swayed by experiences,” Bankrate senior industry analyst Ted Rossman tells Fortune. “While we didn’t specifically ask about the types of impulse purchases respondents made, I suspect experiences such as travel, dining, concert tickets, and sporting events were key contributors,” he says, adding that he suspects clothing and related-spending for events like weddings and parties also played a role.
While no one seems to be alone in their impulse purchases, many shoppers are regretting their split-second choices. But it’s those who impulse shop the least—and who spend the least—who are most likely to have buyer’s remorse: Boomers, who spend an average $418 a year on social-media impulse purchases, at 62%. Meanwhile, millennials spend the most at $1,016, but are the least regretful (55%). Gen Z spends the next highest amount—$844—but is more regretful than millennials (58%).
Impulse spending weighs everyone down
This isn’t the first time younger generations have opened up about feeling extra financial pressure from their social feeds. More than half of Gen Zers and almost as many millennials admitted that social media encourages them to buy things they can’t afford, according to Deloitte’s 12th annual 2023 Gen Z and Millennial survey. That’s despite reporting high financial anxiety and concerns about today’s cost of living.
These impulse purchases could be part of the treat culture younger generations have developed in order to starve away the existential and financial dread of growing up during late-stage capitalism and climate change. In comparison to the overwhelming burden of student loans and the daunting task of homeownership, these minor purchases can often be a drop in the bucket—perhaps that’s why the perpetually unlucky millennials feel the least guilty.
But online shopping can take a more sinister turn at times, impacting our mental health and finances. The Deloitte survey found that this financial behavior was sending Gen Z and millennials into an anxiety spiral, and a separate Bankrate study from last year found that impulse spending from a sponsored social media post made consumers feel negatively about their finances.
Bankrate’s most recent survey yielded similar results, with Gen Z and millennials most likely to feel that social media promotes unrealistic lifestyles and that posts are made to make someone look more successful than they are. It’s a sentiment that more than half of all generations acknowledged, although only 12% of respondents admit that they are responsible for the same behavior. Millennials and Gen Zers were also the most likely to feel negatively about their financial situation after seeing others’ posts on social media and to say that social media has a negative impact on the way they manage their money.
While a sponsored ad can seem fun and inspirational, there’s not much to “like” or “heart” about the way social media weighs on our wallets.