Consumerism manipulated our minds, society and behaviour. How desires lead to luxury, over-spending and damage to environment. What is beyond consumption?
We are not consumers. We are people.
And we are definitely not products.
But modern society has made us either mindless consumeristic zombies or a product of our own doings.
We are not living our lives to earn money and shop whatever we want, have a luxury house, or entertain ourselves. We definitely are not living to support big and even small corporations as if we are some kind of robots. But, if we take a look from a perspective of an alien (who is not part of society) it seems that we are.
What is Consumerism?
Consumerism is a social and economic order that encourages the acquisition of goods and services in ever-increasing amounts.– Wikipedia
We spend our childhoods in schools, toil in tuitions for getting into a good college, to ultimately have the best chance at getting a job “you desire”. Then at those workplaces, we fight with our colleagues on the way up, in the hope of getting a brand new house or even as simple as getting the new iPhone. A part of society climbs up the corporate ladder to get new Teslas while others want to live a simple life.
In the current scenario, all sections of the society around us seem to be mere consumers. It seems like all world’s problems are solved by “consuming”. Feeling sad? – shop or watch Netflix. Want to know what is going around – Watch TV News or scroll through Twitter. Want to ‘socialize’ go to Instagram and YouTube. Are you obese? or have some disease? – buy some fitness equipment or gym membership. Wherever we go it’s the same thing. When you ‘work’ you are working for a corporation. And most of the stuff we accumulate over our lifetime is unnecessary.
It just asks: what is the purpose and meaning of our lives except consuming different types of things. There must be some other way society could work? Well, it could- There are millions of ways from small-scale living, a utopian future, or many more we have not yet explored nor imagined. A world where you do not ‘consume’ is totally possible. Imagine a life where we are not advertised for the new mac on YouTube or Facebook; where no shops, factories, or malls exist.
We define happiness as a relative term. We compare it to the person sitting next to us. Oh, he got a new game, I want it too! It is not our own problem that we feel such a need to buy. The fault lies with this society that has taught us to always grow and strive; to get the thing we desire.
As children, we have always been subjected to consumerism. And I do remember doing this with compass boxes, fancy pens, and even book covers. Oh hey, my friend (or even enemy) has it, then I must have it too. The ability to judge a product by its utility value, and even the value it provides to you as an individual, is lost, especially in current teens, as those values have not been inculcated when we were kids.
Our lives, especially those of youth, have taken the shape of becoming brand ambassadors. People strap logos and promote their “favorite” thing all over the place. Be it from showing the Apple logo on your new Purple iPhone or wearing Nike Shoes, or even content that starts with a big N logo. (Netflix) The Youth, especially the new generation is super influential and can easily be manipulated. They are “educated” to just consume. Leaving their identities behind and moving to just work for a company as consumers. Not only does this make no financial sense, when a lot of them are in debt or paying EMIs, but we also become victims of big corporations taking advantage of our show-off lives.
Recently, Gen Z is being marketed with sustainable and innovative products. Using such recycled, green, and longer-lasting products is definitely good, but when we buy the product because it is more eco-friendly or long-lasting, consumption still increases. So, rather than being a sustainable alternative, it indirectly burdens the environment.
Innovation will truly help, only when we change this consumerist attitude.
For example, if the mileage of a car increases, we tend to go on a longer journey, if the battery life of the phone increases we start using it even more. Along with those, sales are a big scam that heavily and quickly influences purchase decisions. You might want to buy 2-kilo Potatoes, but if a shopkeeper sells 2 kilos at Rs. 30 and 5 kilos at Rs. 50, most of us would end up buying 5 kilos just because it seems like a better deal (even though we don’t want to spend or need the product), what we end up doing is judging its utility value by its price and other relative factors, rather than judging the value of an item by its need and utility for us. Such unused products, which were instant buys in most cases, account for a lot of wastage . Meat, Energy Drinks, etc give you proteins and claim to boost energy are also practices that work but are horrible for society.
If all these products and services didn’t exist, what would society be like? In the future when all people hopefully have their needs satisfied or robots do all the work, we will be in the situation when our mindset of consuming wouldn’t work. People will have more free time, will have to work less as even the wants will be less. We will care about other people and even animals as a life form and not as someone who is a collection of consumables.
The solution starts with you, and especially the youth and Gen Z. If you see an advertisement and are tempted to buy it – * do not buy it *. Reduce your consumption and temptation to consume. Social Media networks are consumables that tempt you to get other stuff with advertisements. Reducing usage and the double-tap attitude will help a lot. Along with that, we need to learn to make human connections. The ability to have a relation with a human or any other life form has reduced as we become more brainwashed as consumers.
When you have the temptation to buy something, pause, self-reflect, and think – Do I really need this? Being content with life (a very important skill, not taught to us) rather than always wanting to get something new; will make you a happier individual.
Before buying think “Do you WANT it or NEED it”
We need to be creative. Let’s say the internet vanishes tomorrow, what will we do as people. Find something in which you truly find entertainment. Wanting to get a carpet? consider getting it from a small business owner instead of Amazon – sounds small but will help. These corporations are selling us convenience. Try to learn the ability to learn and build new things instead of indulging in the materialistic world. Learning and exploring hobbies has brought improvement to the self and the world since centuries.
Judging the value of a product you are tempted to buy or use by its utilitarian value rather than its influence shadowed upon you or your friend using it, can help a lot.
What will you do, when you are truly content?