A BIT OF PSYCHOLOGY: WHAT’S BEHIND OUR NEED TO CONSUME MORE AND MORE...AND MORE

Is more really better?

 

 

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Michelangelo Pistoletto at Ravizza Brownfield Gallery, Honolulu, 2017

Michelangelo Pistoletto at Ravizza Brownfield Gallery, Honolulu, 2017

When I was a teenager I would spend hours scrolling through netaporter.com, and switching tabs to fill out a google doc, “The Things I Need.” I would command copy and command paste links and images of leather trousers, high heeled boots, and designer jeans onto an already full page of products. I’d update it as I scrolled. As the list grew so did my anxiety and I found my tired eyes wide awake at night prioritizing items (must haves secured at the top of my list) and calculating to figure out how I could begin to Check Out my overflowing cart.

What I eventually came to realize was that my ‘Add to Bag’ obsession was a means of escaping the stresses of high school. It gave me something to focus on other than exams, college prep, and whether or not the shirt I was wearing hugged me in all the right places for when I would sit next to John Finn in Algebra II tomorrow. I shopped to avoid my anxieties, soothe my worries and to achieve some level of relaxation. Luckily, I had no money of my own at the time and my mother’s favorite word became ‘No.’ Without cash nor parental support, I fortunately peaked as a window shopping consumerist who escaped piles of never worn regret.

There is no doubt that consumerism, often now touted as our “modern religion,” drives our economy, both locally and globally. Beginning with the Industrial Revolution, and now with the ongoing Tech Revolution we have an excess of accessible products. Via clever marketing techniques of fast fashion brands (i.e. trending styles) and Apple’s forever-updating iPhones, we are falling prey to companies’ planned obsolescence of consumer goods. We are left with our once needed fad-buys collecting dust on shelves and hanging unworn in closets while scrolling for the next must-have little black dress.

The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.
— MARIE CONDO
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marie kondo

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the minimalists

For the past decade, magazine ads, tv commercials, and the rise of celebrity culture have been showing us lifestyles supported by incomes above average, in fact well beyond it. This has led us as a society to focus on extrinsic motivations, seeking validation from means outside of ourselves, and in turn has made us more materialistic. We think that the more money we have, the more clothes we buy, the more food we eat, the happier we will feel. The more celeb endorsed beauty products we order online, the brighter our skin will shine and therefore the better our lives will be. We've come to indulge in an impulsive emotional process of See-Want-Buy!, rather than pausing to ask ourselves, "Do I really need this? Will this new thing add value to me, my life?"

Research delving into this modern consumerist culture has found that despite our eagerness for more, life satisfaction is correlated with having less materialistic values. There is no direct correlation between income and happiness and once our basic needs are met, wealth makes very little difference to our overall well-being and happiness. Psychologist Tim Kasser wrote in The High Price Of Materialism that consumer culture may contribute to the development of narcissistic personalities and behaviors, "by focusing individuals on the glorification of consumption." Among others, Kasser has found that consumerism is fueled by insecurity and remedied by mindfulness.

Recently, TV programs and personalities such as Marie Kondo (and her popular Netflix show) and The Minimalists (must see: Minimalism, a documentary) have been forcing us to look at ourselves and our lives and reflect on whether or not we really need all this stuff. With some people choosing to live their lives with one outfit and one pair of shoes in a tiny house, there is a certain level of awareness raised as to what is really needed to live a satisfying life.

So next time you are about to buy that new night serum which vows to turn back time between the hours of 10pm and 6am, pause and ask yourself is this really adding value to my life and why do I find myself feeling the need to purchase it?

 

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