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Consumerism in Our Daily Reality

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Consumerism in Our Daily Reality

“The things you own end up owning you.”

Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

 “Consumerism in our daily reality” is a huge topic where many issues have to be discussed to present it adequately. What is consumerism? Have we ever thought about the nature of consumerism? Why do we purchase and consume the things, which we do not actually need? These questions are quite relevant and important nowadays.  In the consumer society, "I am what I have" is the operative definition of self.

 In today's society consumerism is often portrayed to be a negative aspect of people's lives and purchasing behaviors, which inevitably leads to materialism. It  seems to have gotten into every aspect of modern life. Consuming as much as we do in western civilisation, can give us a sense of false needs. Eventually, material goods become commodities and extensions of peoples daily lives. Massive amount of advertising is now a normal part of western society that most of us do not seem to realise just how pervasive it is in our lives.  As we go through our day tomorrow, notice the number of adverts we see and the sources from which they appear, and we will discover just how much of our valuable time and brain space advertisers are forcing themselves into. By the way  we have better things to do during this period of ‘hijacked’ time. It is not simply the ‘irritant factor’ of advertising that is the problem however.  Although we may have stopped noticing just how much we are being bombarded by advertising, it is still affecting our decisions, our worldviews and our lives generally.

For example, newspapers and magazines do not just contain pages of advertisements but also stories about new gadgets, new clothes, property, makeovers, travel and many other things, all suggesting that having them will make life more fun and interesting, bring you greater freedom or bring some other positive change to your life.  They may not promote an item directly like an advertisement but many will help to create desires and needs in the reader – some relating to specific products like cars or clothes and others relating to particular ways of life that require further money and consumption.  

Our modern obsession with celebrities also means that newspapers and magazines publish stories about glamorous people we might aspire to copy, and much of this aspiration is to consume the same things as they do – from designer clothes to private jets.

Leisure activity is another source of mental inputs.  One example of a leisure activity that supports consumerism is sport – perhaps most notably football. There is pressure on people to have the latest boots, kit and the latest version of the strip of their favourite team.  And clubs are well aware of the commercial value of people’s loyalty to their team – many launch a new kit each year, with both ‘home’ and ‘away’ variants, along with numerous other items in their club shops.  One of the most mystifying aspects of this is when fans buy an updated version of a team’s strip that is no different from the previous one other than the fact that the sponsor displayed on the front has changed.  This surely shows the power of consumerism – people being prepared to spend £45 to advertise your company for you. At a higher level, football has become mired in consumerism and greed.  Top players can earn in excess of £100,000 per week, creating role models for children that are not based on excelling at the sport they love but on earning as much as possible and achieving a particular lifestyle.  Football and consumerism seem to have become intertwined, and the same thing is happening in many other sports, including rugby and tennis.

Family can influence us too. Sitting in the pub with friends discussing someone’s new mobile phone can create new needs or feelings of pressure.  Mixing with people who have consumerist lifestyles can therefore be a powerful influence on us.  It can often seem as if this is the only way to behave and that these are the only aspirations to have.  In short, it is another thing that helps the consumerist philosophy to maintain its power in society.

The influence of other people on us can go way beyond friends and family however.  If we look around and see that everyone is living consumerist lives with consumerist aspirations – from our neighbours to film stars to politicians – it is likely that most of us will accept this as the only way of life that is available, or if not the only one then the best.

Consumerism can affect our worldviews and confuse us - especially when we start feeling that our lives are not providing us with what we need to be happy.  From the Western perspective, we might have all the elements that constitute a good quality of life – job, car, house and other material possessions.  But we might nevertheless feel somehow dissatisfied and empty, feeling that the pursuit of more possessions and the pressure of having to earn more money or sink into further debt to pay for this lifestyle is bringing more costs than benefits to our lives.  Both advertising and consumerism itself try to manipulate us into adopting a particular view of how we should live rather than letting us decide for ourselves.

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