In today’s Western society, consumerism has become more of a way of life than anything. Because we live in a world that values what can be seen and measured more than the experienceable. A world that praises extensive wardrobes and the novelty that seems to come with it.
And while purchasing things is not inherently bad - not taking into account the question of how things are made, where they come from and what resources have been exploited -, it seems that the more materially comfortable we as a culture become, we still seem to be highly unhappy.
Now there may or may not be a direct causal link between consumerism and our social malcontent. But rethinking my perspective made me wonder whether our relentless consumption eventually stems from a disconnection from our inner selves, and whether we’re trying to fill a fundamental void within us through the purchasing decisions we make. Why do we tend to buy when we feel anxious, depressed, empty? Why, in the hunt for immediate pleasure, people turn to shopping - Comforted by the aura of luxury and possession, when the thrill dies away pretty fast in fact, similar to that of a placedo effect.
Given we’re more materially comfortable than we’ve ever been, one might expect modern people in developed countries to be happier. Truth is, some of the happiest people I’ve encountered through my experiences in both developed and developing countries in the past few years were people that weren’t driven by consumerism and material objects, which leads me to say that these alone cannot bring lasting happiness.
Consumerism and advertising are a type of trap that convince us to fill emotional voids with material objects. It is a well known fact that, in trying to sell us things, advertisers appeal to, almost manipulate our emotions and desires. We’re becoming mere shoppers. And while material comfort is necessary to a point, our needs are not purely material. Consumerism and the relentless accumulation of stuff disconnect us from our own humanity, and from each other. From our thoughts and feelings that create our outer actions, which all together create our world. It does not fill any void we might have within us. Instead, it’s fostering the relationships with our inner beings that allow us to fill the emptiness within us. Only once we understand this, we can live in a place of purpose and intention.