Understanding a Consumerist World

We live in a day and age that everything you wish to purchase or consume is simply a click away, and usually, does not require one to make an excessive effort. It is a known fact that whenever something comes easy and simple, humans tend to over-indulge. 

Now, it is essential to keep in mind that over-indulgence in certain activities such as drinking, taking drugs, and unprotected sex can lead to adverse effects on the individual performing them as well as the people around them. Hence, it becomes more noticeable to the individuals involved that a particular activity is not as beneficial as it seems.

When you can see the harm, you speak about it. When the damage seems to affect other aspects of life such as the social, financial, romantic, and intrapersonal areas, then it becomes relatively easier to grab hold of it and speak about it.

But what if a certain type of over-indulgence does not seem to upset other aspects of your life? What if it does not seem to harm your relationships and daily activities in a way that is concerning? That does not sound like a problem, right?

This is where we enter a much more profound area. This area is not as dominant or vocal as the rest, but just as crucial. Humans have a psychological need for affiliation which is basically the desire to have personal relationships with other individuals and typically manifests itself through efforts to be associated with other individuals and social groups. 

This need for affiliation can also manifest itself through the choices we make in terms of what we buy, watch, indulge, and consume. Everyone understands that if you wish to sell something, you have to do it in a way that catches the eye, becomes impossible to ignore, and eventually, represents a bigger and social symbol. 

That is what advertising is all about; appealing to the psyche of the consumer in the most attractive manner possible. It is not a coincidence or happenstance when everyone in the world seems to be saving months of their earnings to purchase the latest iPhone. 

If we sat down and deconstructed the hype around the brand Apple, besides certain technological upgrades, we would come to the realization that it is much bigger than what the phone can do. It is about what the phone and brand represent and the idea it conveys, and what it represents is advancement, knowledge, a certain advanced social standing, and power.

These ideas are not necessarily negative, but they can have negative connotations when overindulgence and over-attachment start guiding decisions and thoughts.

It is important to remember that we are part of a consumerist culture, which comes as no shock when we realize how accessible everything has become over the past 50 years. Mankind has aimed to make every aspect accessible such as healthcare, education, transport, sanitation, good infrastructure, fundamental rights, jobs, and even entertainment and luxury.

Since this is a global reality that we are facing, dissonance does not shout in our faces. It manifests itself through a displacement of identity, what we think really matters in life, and how we connect to our surroundings.

Personally, I realized how consumerist my behavior was when I was heartbroken to part with things, clothes, and gadgets that I hoarded over years and years. I did not even seem to have any particular emotional connection with them, these items did not remind me of a sunny afternoon from my childhood or represent the love of a family member.

They were simply things that I could not bear being in the possession of anyone else, they were mine. Even if I knew that I could provide warmth to someone in need or joy to someone less privileged than I am, I was still driven by an arrogant attachment to not let them go.

I was becoming too concerned with what everyone else around me was using and wearing, so I could replicate the same and fit in like a glove. I could not stand the idea of not fitting in by shopping from a cheaper and more sustainable place or buying a phone from a less known brand. I felt ashamed and unworthy of this society, my friends, and my peers if I did not conform to what I believed to be the norm.

I was not being my true self, rather an amalgamation of whatever I consumed. My decisions and identity were being guided by fear and the need to affiliate rather than the need to feel content and at peace.

This is when I realized that the dissonance I was experiencing was the constant struggle between being what seemed ideal and what was real.

Finding your ground is not as easy as waking up from a nap as we are conditioned into needing things. It takes time and mindfulness to feel grounded and present.

You can begin by simply evaluating the things you give priority in life and the nature of these things.

Ask yourself: is it aligned with who I am and what brings me a sense of peace? Is it authentic to what I feel?

Remind yourself that your relationships are much bigger and more profound than what you share in ‘common’ with the other person. Focus on the moments and memories that you have created and the feeling that is attached to them.

Practicing mindfulness is not as simple as practicing running but it will come as effortlessly when you consistently practice. 

One can also practice and indulge in activities that engage the mind and body in harmonies such as painting, drawing, or any art and physical activity.

Whenever you feel yourself becoming overly attached to a certain thing or idea, ask yourself what the attachment is rooting from.

Is it something you truly wish to have or something that you know that you need to have?

Asking yourself these questions will also not come easy initially but by practicing this exercise whenever you’re overwhelmed, you are bringing yourself back to reality and touching your feet on the ground, quite literally. 

It is okay to feel a little lost in this world because we are all together in that feeling as well and we can uplift each other from it.

Written by Riya Singh