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The consumer culture

When a big brand in the mobile device industry launches a new improved version of its existing smartphone device, it is for sure to become a hot cake as thousands line up at its stores and on online platforms to buy one. Is this purchase about the attached utility value of the product or a race to possess stuff which one thinks will bring happiness to one’s life?

The above question was answered way back in a different context by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter in a speech in the 1970s. "In a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities, and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption. Human identity is no longer defined by what one does, but by what one owns. But we’ve discovered that owning things and consuming things does not satisfy our longing for meaning. We’ve learned that piling up material goods cannot fill the emptiness of lives which have no confidence or purpose," he said.

The desire to possess non-essential worldly items which have literally no meaning and value are insinuated in our life by the materialistic consumer culture and the peer pressure around us. The habit of conspicuous and addictive consumption is inflicted on us by big capitalist corporations and markets in general with a structured and planned approach. The associated attributes of good life are very perspicaciously attached with the lifeless and soulless products by playing with human psychology.

The proposition of chasing materialistic values is making us more and more unhappy. It is derived from the fallacious notion that the more luxuries and wealth you have, the more respect and admiration you get. Unnecessary consumption has definitely increased after globalisation due to higher incomes and increasing inequality. Tools such as social media platforms have been an important instrument in perpetuating it as the new normal. On these platforms, users like you and me have become products for the advertisers, who are their customers.

It’s a vicious cycle where the market will never stop selling and neither does the consumption. We must remember that markets are also an extension of the society we live in. However, they have a distinct ability of being more organised and resourceful around their agendas than our societies as a whole. The market creates demand while understanding consumer behaviour (popular subject in marketing studies) through research and studies. Hence as individuals, we need to do some self-realisation and inner reflection on our own behaviours to understand what prompts us to make these unnecessary and meaningless purchases that they know and we don’t.

We live in such an unequal society where abject poverty and hunger is so rampant. The culture of excessive consumption looks so iniquitous. Let better sense prevail.

salman.mba@gmail.com

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Printable version | Nov 30, 2020 4:50:15 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/the-consumer-culture/article32820095.ece

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