More than freedom, equality, democracy, or any other oft touted ideals, the most defining feature of our modern society is our consumerist culture. Consumerism is the most powerful driving force of our era that has completely transformed our mind, body, and way of life. It’s not a coincidence that many of our traditional beliefs and values eroded just as amassing material wealth and consuming media started to become the prime directive in life for modern men. In that sense, consumerism is our new religion.
Consumerism is the very function and being of the System. As such, it must maintain its existence by enforcing its grip over the people’s psyche. To this effect, the six-hundred billion dollar advertising industry conditions our minds from a young age to seek fulfillment through products and media. We are bombarded with endless amounts of sounds and images designed specifically to steal our attention away and to prod our deep and shallow desires—as well as our fears and insecurities.
This consumerist culture is so pervasive and intrusive that many people start to define themselves based on the products they own. Think of all the people who buy clothes for the name and logo. Or look at all the Apple ‘fans’ who religiously buy their new line of products to establish their hip identity. These people need to cover themselves with products to define their status because without them, they would be nobodies.
The effects of consumerism on individuals is two-fold: First, it creates a constant anxiety to purchase items that are almost always unnecessary. And second, directly related to the first, is that it creates status anxiety where you are made to worry about your social standing in comparison to others.
The consumerist system thrives from your feelings of inadequacy and it accomplishes this by distorting your desires and impulses through advertisements. If you look at advertisements today, unlike in the past, it is often not about the product itself and more about the other associated rewards. In advertisements for fastfood for instance, you’ll see healthy, attractive, young, and beautiful people socializing and enjoying themselves. The reality, of course, is much different when you take a glance at the type of people who regularly visit one of these fastfood restaurants. The whole purpose of advertisements is to distort these truths by pairing positive qualities that people desire—health, beauty, friendship, fun, happiness, money, status, sex, etc.—to the products that they want to sell. When you are constantly exposed to these messages of everything that you lack, it creates anxiety in you that can only be quenched by purchasing those items. Our modern society has a thing called ‘retail therapy’ due to the amount of artificial anxiety generated by these advertisements.
The problem with engaging in consumerism is that once you’re hooked, it never ends. You’ll realize that the false realities were nothing but a mirage. Whatever sense of fulfillment you feel will quickly deflate and empty out. Not only are your emotional highs temporary, but the products themselves are designed to be temporary as per planned obsolescence. Just how often do people buy a new version of their current phones? Just few decades ago, people didn’t bother buying something new unless what they currently owned stopped working. The consumerist system needs people to be perpetually dissatisfied for contentment will lead to its death.
First, try to minimize your exposure to advertisements and products as much as possible. Only search for products that you need when you need it. There is no need to disrupt your mind with false images designed to tempt your desires and prompt you to act impulsively.
Second, choose a simple and minimalistic lifestyle as an alternative to consumerist slavery. Living a minimalist life frees you from the burden of possessions. A truly free man is a man who is not held down by the objects that he possesses. Man is only free when he is detached from the material value of the things that surround his life and chooses to value his core self instead. This is, of course, not to say that all material possessions are necessary evils; possessions that are of practical value that enriches your life should be embraced, but without becoming attached to them. Once you disassociate your self from your possessions, you will no longer suffer from anxiety arising from materialism or status.
The third is to buy products based on their utility, practical benefits, and durability. Don’t buy for status and don’t buy to fit in with others. You must think long-term and understand that once novelty wears off, the only value that’s left in items is its use. If possible, try to spend more of your money on experience, knowledge, and skills that will be with you for your life instead of on objects.
Here are more points to consider:
- Understand that your life has a simple set of basic needs that don’t require vast amounts of material wealth.
- Only purchase items that are necessary or advance your life values.
- Get rid of objects that fulfill no practical purpose.
- Remember that objects only have meaning if you attach it to them.
- Experiences will make your life far more enjoyable than owning possessions.
- Health above pleasure, challenge over comfort, and learning above being entertained.
- Find enjoyment in the simpler things in life, such as going outside to appreciate the nature.
Being free from both material possessions and the anxiety associated with purchasing them will be the impetus for your self-development. Once you are immersed in developing yourself rather than collecting stuff, you will learn that enriching your mind and body is far more rewarding than anything you can buy with money. It is also guaranteed that you will become a stronger, wiser, and a more disciplined man than those who continue to engage in consumerist slavery.
Always choose to be the better man and be the best that you can be.