Friday, 19 March 2010

Perils of consumerism



With each life experience and interaction with the world, our minds are shaped, opinions formed and decisions made which alter our viewpoints, challenge our existing knowledge and understanding. Every form of media and popular opinion that we are exposed to changes our perceptions and way of thinking. We are consistently being bombarded with advertisements, trends through an array of different forms of media. All of which have an impact regardless of whether or not we are actively involved in following them or passively. An example of this is technology (gadgets). Every few months there is a new and ‘better’ phone, laptop/computer, car, and TV / DVD system and on and on… It doesn’t stop! The temptation is too great with all that is positioned around us to desire these things. Advertisements make us feel like what we already have is outdated and invalid and that we need to consistently search and seek something new whether we really need these things or not.
Consumerism is a social and economic order that is based on the systematic creation and fostering of a desire to purchase commodity goods in ever greater amounts [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consumerism].
 
Fashion is another excellent example of this; being a great lover and ardent fan of shoes, I recall the introduction of the UGG boots, (if you escaped them you are one of the lucky few!) They are an Australian branded and made ‘snow’ type boot for winter (the irony was certainly more than I could bare…) These shoes became popular almost overnight at the ridiculous price of approx £100 and true to form, as soon as the celebrities started being seen in them, they flew of the shelves like the last few loaves of bread during the Zimbabwe ‘now you see it, now you don’t’ food crisis of the last few years!

Outrageous I know but a powerful example of how little choice one can have in life. If you ask anyone who owns a pair of these oversized boots if their choice was completely uninfluenced by who had them in the celebrity world as well as their own local circles, you will find that the decision to purchase was influenced even sub-consciously through advertisement or directly through peer pressure. I am pleased to report that on a matter of principle I refused to purchase UGG boots and deliberately chose to buy a pair of Emues instead  (another Australian brand but at half the price). My choice at the style of boots was however influenced by the UGG craze and therefore is debatable where choice stopped and external influence took over. In contrast; my good friend (whose identity will be concealed to protect the guilty!) who took a similar stance to mine in relation to the cost of UGG boots, but she spent an hour of her life filling in an online questionnaire with the promise of a free pair of these boots at the end…they never materialised!

One of the most influential pulls or pressures if you like, that drive consumerism, is the ‘keeping up with the Joneses syndrome’. It is a phrase applied to competitive acquisition: trying to have all the new things that your neighbours have [http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_does_Keeping_up_with_the_Joneses_mean]. This is the final link in the vicious cycle called consumerism. It uses advertising to tell us we are not good enough as we are; incapable of having style unless we follow their fashion, unable to connect to the world without all the latest gadgets to be able to use new technologies to do things we do not really need. It then provides for us the solution to our inadequacies or areas of lack... (...fill in the blank), and it’s sold in the nearest shopping centre or town to you. Finally it gets all your friends, family, neighbours;  people in your class at school or work colleagues to buy things and brag about how great they are and how it has changed their life. Then you see it, the look that says oh dear you still have that old version or last seasons... and you’re spurned on to ‘shop ‘till you drop!’ or ‘buy, buy, buy’ (for the gents). So next time you go out to replace that mobile phone or computer or your perfectly working radio, pause, tell yourself you’re a victim and chuckle quietly to yourself  ... 

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