The consumer society we live in has altered our perceptions on so many levels. It has changed the way we see things in our everyday lives.
The consumer society wants us to believe that in order to be happy, we need to constantly buy newer and better things. Life becomes a never-ending pursuit of the attributes of success. I’m using the word ‘attributes’ because our society doesn’t really want us to strive to be truly successful or happy. It wants us to strive to look so.
But the saddest fact is that our consumer society has distorted the way we view and treat other people. And this distortion is rooted so deeply inside our minds that most people today don’t even realize that something is wrong with this mindset.
Below are the ways our consumerist mindset has messed with our perception of happiness and personal relationships.
1. We are never happy with what we have
The first basic thing we learn in today’s consumer society is that we are not good enough. Our life is not good enough. Our house is too small, our car is too old, our smartphone is too outdated and so on. We are constantly told that in order to be cool, happy and successful, we need to buy new stuff.
Hold on for a minute and think about your grandparents’ lives. Back to the times when they were young, did they have all the things you have today? Did they have so many household appliances at their place? How many clothes did they have and how often did they buy new ones? Did they have a car, did they even have a TV?
A few decades ago, life was much simpler than it is now. For this reason, people’s understanding of happiness and life satisfaction was also much simpler. Today, it’s much more difficult to feel accomplished and satisfied with all these expectations and pressure the society is putting on us. As a result, we struggle to appreciate what we have and to be grateful for all the good things in our lives.
2. We don’t fix things anymore – we just throw them away and look for the new ones
When asked how they managed to stay together for 65 years, the woman replied: “We were born in a time when if something was broken, you fixed it, not throw it away.”
Today, it’s possible to buy literally anything. This has lead us to think that all the things we have can be easily replaced with new ones. If your phone is out of order, you can always buy a new one, right?
Sadly enough, this mindset the consumer society cultivates has had an enormous effect on our personal relationships too. Whether we are aware of it or not, we have started to treat people in our lives the same way.
When we face problems in our relationships or friendships, we often give up too easily. We decide that this person is not good enough for us and just cut them out of our life. Of course, in some instances, such as toxic and abusive relationships, it can be a wise option.
Still, we often label people as toxic or negative before we really get to know them and the hardships they may be going through. As a result, we often fail to understand those around us and tend to burn bridges too soon.
And all this has to do with the consumerist mindset – we feel like we can always replace our friend or partner with a new one. However, personal relationships just don’t work this way.
3. We need constant social validation
The consumer society we live in thrives on comparison and competition. Who is more successful than me? Who is richer, whose relationship is happier than mine, who has a bigger house?
Today, we compare ourselves with others all the time. It has become the norm. It’s one of the ways the consumer society makes people buy more stuff in order to be “better” – or, more precisely, feel better – than those around them.
For this reason, we often feel the need to show our accomplishments to others. We share the details of our private lives on social media and upload pictures of our vacations and special moments. In reality, it’s a cry for attention and validation. “Everyone, look at me, how happy I am!” “Hey, people, check out my new car/house/job, are you as successful as I am?”
But sit and think about it a little more in-depth. Are all your Instagram followers genuinely interested in your life? Do all your Facebook friends care about you and want to see you happy?
This is another lie our consumer society feeds us with – that other people care to learn every little detail of our lives, so it is important that we demonstrate our success and happiness to them. However, in reality, most people just don’t care and some would even be glad to see you fail.
And most importantly, we often forget that chasing social validation will never bring us happiness. Quite the opposite, actually. It is more likely to bring us disappointment, self-esteem issues loneliness and even depression. It’s simply impossible to be good enough for everyone.
Never forget that:
4. Taking advantage of other people is the norm
Consumer society is all about obtaining, using and finally, throwing things away. We buy tons of unnecessary stuff just to get rid of it later.
While this approach is causing a tremendous devastating effect on the environment, it is also devastating to our personal lives. We have started to treat people the same way we treat objects.
I believe every one of us has been taken advantage of. Remember that friendly colleague who seemed so kind and interested until you helped him write a report? Or that old classmate of yours who reappeared in your life just to get your help in formatting her laptop? Or maybe that friend who wants to see you only when he is in trouble but doesn’t return your calls when you need someone to talk to?
Situations like this are a part of today’s life and don’t even surprise us anymore. Sadly enough, it has become a rarity to meet an individual without hidden motives. Someone who genuinely cares about you and is glad to see you only because he or she enjoys your company. If you have a couple of such people in your life, consider yourself lucky.
The truth is that this mindset will never make you happy. You may indeed achieve some of your goals by taking advantage of other people. But in the end, all you will be left with is the voice of your conscience and all-consuming loneliness.
5. We focus on material values and ignore the real ones
What is the greatest purpose of life in a consumer society? To have a high paying prestigious job and a fat bank account, to own a great house and car along with all the other attributes of wealth and success. Only a person who meets these criteria is considered truly successful and receives everyone’s praise and respect.
But is the meaning of life really about obtaining material wealth and looking good to others? Many people nowadays are fooled by the lies the consumer society tells us on a daily basis. As a result, they find themselves stuck in jobs they hate and living a life that feels monotonous and meaningless. This is probably one of the reasons why depression rates have never been higher than today.
Our consumer society distracts us from the things that have a real value in life. Instead, it directs us towards ephemeral goals, making us serve its interests without even being aware of it.
Society judges people by their successes. I get attracted by their dedication, simplicity, and humility.
Finding happiness in the consumer society
Well, I guess I draw a pretty dull picture of today’s world. But you know, like with all things, there is a bright side to living in a consumer society. And it is about the countless opportunities it offers.
While modern life often makes us forget what life is all about, it also gives us numerous possibilities to make our dreams come true. There have never been so many various businesses, jobs, and career paths before, and everyone can find something to fulfill their purpose in life.
So instead of letting the consumer society fool you into pursuing the wrong things, focus on the right ones, and seek to find your unique path in life.
Forget what is popular or prestigious and look for what matters to you. Don’t try to look successful and gain everyone’s approval; follow your soul’s calling. Because this has always been and will always be the only way to reach true success and happiness.
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