According to the dictionary, consumerism is “a modern movement for the protection of the consumer against useless, inferior, or dangerous products, misleading advertising,unfair pricing, etc.” Also being defined as “the concept that an ever-expanding consumption of goods is advantageous to the economy”. Consumerism can also be the belief that happiness and the wellbeing of a person depends on the level of person consumption, particularly on the purchase of material goods. The perfect example of a consumerist society is America.
A consumerist society is one in which people spend a great deal of time, energy, resources and thought to “consuming”. Being in such a society, it is thought that spending is good and the more you do the better it is. However, consumerist societies fail to realize the negative effects of consumerism.
Consumerism has been overlooked up until recent years.Looking back into history, you will find that consumerism was very different from those that exist today. There were just a few people in any country that spent a large amount of time and resources on shopping and seeking for goods produced in other communities that were usually far from their own.
The majority of each country’s population lived in rural areas in the 17th to 18th century and worked in agriculture. Their items, clothes and household possessions were very much limited compared to today where we have almost an unlimited access to whatever materials that comes to mind if ever needed. Materials and goods in the olden days were bought and used for years if not decades if no damages occured. In today’s society, fashions, technological change, and social pressure drives us to constantly purchase new items. The United States has become extremely dependent on consuming as the holidays have lost their true meaning, people are constantly delivered advertisements urging them to buy materials, the country is slowly becoming faithless, and society is trapped in a mindset of having more is ideally what is required to be happy. America’s Consuming Culture: HolidaysThere was a time where holidays were days where you can take time off to celebrate its true meaning. A day where you can enjoy the company of your family members and build a stronger relationship with your friends as you bond over shared memories. The holidays today seems to be less of that and more about consuming goods.
The days leading up to the holidays are more focused on planning and what you can buy. Holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and Labor Day all have seem to lose its sense of importance and meaning. Thanksgiving, for instance, is a day that has been celebrated since 1600s in American history as a way to be thankful for the independence that the U.S gained after a long fought war and for the ratification of the Constitution. Over time, thanksgiving has become more of a day where people are still in fact thankful but is generally focused on sharing a cooked meal with family and friends. But is not just about thanksgiving anymore, it is the day after known as Black Friday. Black Friday is the day where shoppers would plan to buy merchandise that are discounted.
Black Friday originally had a bad connotation to it. It was first named that way because of what happened in Philadelphia as people from different areas would come to take advantage of the sales after thanksgiving. So much people would be there that law official would have to work longer shifts than usual to handle with the large flux of traffic and customers who would take advantage of the large crowds in malls to shoplift. According to the annual survey by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics, 69 percent of Americans, which is roughly 164 million people, are planning to shop or considering shopping during Thanksgiving weekend this year. Stores are even opening earlier during the day to allow customer to shop right after eating their thanksgiving dinner. Another example of consumerism taking over a holiday is Christmas. The day before Christmas is proven to be the day where stores would make the most profit throughout the year so they emphasize on shopping.
Christmas has become all about buying gifts for each other. The true meaning of Christmas is to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ who was born around that time of the year and it is supposed to be a joyful time of the year as you spend time with people you care for. A lot of people have lost sight of that because they feel the need to get gifts even if they can’t afford it. AdvertisementAdvertising has become extremely important in terms of marketing and distributing goods since the 20th century to today. Advertisement is defined in the dictionary as a notice or announcement in a public medium promoting a product, service, or event or publicizing a job vacancy. In the United States, being the largest advertising market in the world, billions of dollars are spent on advertisements. It is more than what the country spends, among others, on police protection, higher education and natural resources put together annually. Advertising focuses on your different values.
From ethical appeals to logical appeals. Advertisements range from as low as twenty seconds to up to a minute. Advertisements are everywhere as well as there being different types. They can be found on social networks, television, and radios.
As millennials, we spend much of our days on our phones, watching television and listening to radio stations. The average child aged 2-11 sees over 25,000 ads on television a year, while the average adults sees 52,500 ads according to “Children’s Exposure to TV Advertising in 1977 and 2004: Information for the Obesity Debate” Federal Trade Commission, Bureau of Economics Staff Report. Children are being specifically targeted by companies because they are able to nag their parents into buying the products that they saw during commercial breaks on their television. In an report by the American Psychology Association “Studies have shown that there is a high percentage of advertisements aimed at children that mostly feature candy, fast foods, and snacks, and that exposure to such advertising increases consumption of these products”(Report of the APA Task Force on Advertising and Children). The more exposure these children get from those advertisements, overconsumption of those product causes them to be obese as those products are high in sugar and unhealthy. Technology has become a major part of our daily routines. As a people we are constantly receiving advertisements on what is the next best thing to have. The more exposure the advertisement gets the more people become more willing to buy.
As each advertisement have a message with a deeper meaning to them, it is easy for someone to relate to that message. The overall message of these advertisements tell you that you can and will be “better off” or happy once you purchase these certain products. That is where they are wrong. HappinessAs a society we have formed the idea that buying items is pleasurable and it has become a hobby for many of us. We see shopping as a way of chasing the “American dream” of buying whatever we want whether it is moving to a larger home, getting an expensive car, or a brand new flat screen tv. Why? It is because it is assumed to be what makes us “happy”. The root word happy is hap which refers to “chance, fortune or luck”.
It is also seen in the meaning of the word happen, which in a sense means to “occur by chance”. The Oxford English Dictionary records the use of the word happiness no earlier than the sixteenth century, and it has come to mean a pleasurable feeling that results from attaining success or good fortune. Evidently, happiness is used in that sense today. As a modern society we have come to put meaning in the objects that we gain. Whether it is items that we buy ourselves or items that we receive from others. The materials that we obtain ourselves in a sense reflects our own experiences, concept of self and of the world. It is referred to as the possession ritual in “Consumer Culture” second edition (Lury, 14-15).
The object that that person now owns helps establish the individual’s social identity. Another ritual mentioned is the gift ritual. It is the movement of goods from one person to another. That movement is also a movement of meaning. “Giving objects on special occasions such as birthdays and anniversaries can be seen as a powerful means of interpersonal communication or influence”(Lury, 15). All in which can make a person “happy”. However, objects can only make us be content, not truly happy.