Why is Consumerism so Prominent in Today’s Society

After reading “My Life with Things” by Chin, I started thinking about how much “stuff” I own, most of which is bought brand-new from chain stores, versus what my grandparents own, most of which are hand-me-downs or things bought from previous owners. Although all of these things we own are lifeless objects, we grow attached to them; could you imagine throwing away that shirt you love or that teddy bear you still keep on your bed, just because you’ve had it since you were a child? I can’t. It seems silly to think that we would have such a hard time throwing away objects which might be meaningless to the general population, but mean so much to us personally. Why? Here are some possibilities that I’ve come up with after reading Chin’s detailed article about her personal life and accounts of consumerism:

  1. We are taught to love “stuff” from a young age

Parents bribe crying children with toys and reward good kids with trips to the store. This habit teaches kids as young as toddlers that “things” are rewards, therefore reinforcing and teaching the idea of consumerism.

  1. We substitute things for people to protect ourselves

The idea that young children, mainly newborns, must sleep alone started because babies used to sleep with their parents, and as there were many newborn deaths, cosleeping took the blame. Of course, the data was false, but now that small children sleep alone, they have infant anxiety and are given security objects, such as toys or soft objects. This teaches them to love things and to substitute an object when missing a parent.

  1. Commercials and store-layouts make us want what we do not need

By using catchy tunes and making things look more useful than they really are, commercials are able to sneak into our brains and stay there, until we one day say “Hey I remember that commercial, I kind of want to buy their product.” This is especially true of MEDICAL commercials, where they ask you general questions that most people would answer “yes” to, just to reveal a little pill that seems able to solve all of your health problems. By making it seem like we can buy something to take our troubles away, commercials simply add another layer of incentives to consumerism. It’s the same thing with big stores like Walmart or Target; we get lost in the stores and find what we don’t truly need, but we buy it anyway.

  1. We want to look perfect to avoid society’s judgment

Consumerism is not just buying useless objects, it’s also getting needless surgeries to improve the way we look. Plastic surgeries (like nose jobs, labia surgery), anal bleaching, waxing, and vajazzling (really, why do you need jewels down there, just why?!) are all useless bodily improvements that we get done to be more attractive to others. But doctors themselves also push for this. Have you ever been to the dentist for one problem and left there without the dentist telling you they should whiten your teeth or give you braces or do some other unnecessary procedure? Me either. This is a push for consumerism by shaming people for their looks.

Before spending an obscene amount of money on whiter teeth, a 10th pair of jeans, or another phone, think about what you REALLY, truly want and need. Are your teeth going to fall out if you don’t get them whitened? Do you have other pants you can wear? Does your phone already work? If there is no true need, then think about what you could do with the money you can save: pay debt back, work a little less and take some time off, invest it, put it in a savings account.