Consumerism is the ultimate scam: it never delivers on the implied promise of emotional fulfillment. It’s an extremely contagious, nearly incurable cultural disease – the more you expect, the more you try to achieve that expectation, then the higher your consumption standards become. Achieving your consumption goals feel like failure.
It’s the philosophy of moving targets, trading real life for a never-ending, moving target that cannot be achieved, quenched, or fulfilled – by nature.
Consumerism isn’t wanting a new phone – it’s always wanting a newer phone.
Falling for consumerism begins innocently: wanting to keep up with one’s social peers. Eventually you’ll find yourself risking the lives of real families so you can text-and-drive to save 5 seconds, pissed off at the high-school kid because you have mustard instead of ketchup on your sandwich, giving up spending time loving your wife because you feel she wants a bigger house more than your precious time.
How Consumerism Eats Away at Our Souls
Almost everyone rejects consumerism in theory, but in application, it’s killing us socially, financially, culturally, and emotionally.
Consumerism is the orphan maker, leading to generations of children growing up with new toys but absent, distracted parents.
Consumerism is the financial annihilator, leading to financial decisions being based on spending money rather than achieving personal, family, and social goals.
Consumerism is the great culture killer, obliterating authentic cultural identity with a mindless, vague existence based on what one consumes rather than who one is.
Consumerism, Anxiety, Guilt, Depression
Consumerism is the emotional executioner, directly and completely robbing people of any sense of being able to enjoy “now.” We trade fulfillment for the gnawing desire for more petty consumption as a lifestyle.
Being emotionally tied to unachievable goals leads to perpetual feelings of anxiety, gnawing-but-vague regret, and an uncanny feeling that one is wasting one’s life. Consumerism isn’t just unhealthy – it’s evil.
I’ve never seen a consumption-obsessed person finally hit the lifestyle that allows them to relax. Because it’s not about any material, set goal. It’s about the cultural obsession with more, the perpetually moving target itself.
If anything, the more one ‘wins’ at consumerism, the more devastating the consequences. There aren’t enough fancy new coffee shops in the world to make up for a thirsty soul that can’t be quenched. And no, this isn’t a swipe against fancy coffee shops.
What Consumerism Is Not
Don’t confuse consumerism with markets or capitalism. Capital is important, markets are vital, but consumerism is a different animal. Consumerism is the idea that you behave only for a transactional gain – that life is a series of accounting decisions.
If you focus on consumption, then business success won’t help you – it’ll destroy you. It’ll lock you into a new lifestyle like a slave shackled to a luxury galley ship. That lifestyle isn’t success – it’s your comfy hell on earth.
I think people know something is wrong. The Internet is speeding up our strengths and weaknesses – which includes consumerism going off the rails in new life-ruining speed.
The Alternatives to the Disease
There are plenty of competing potential alternatives to consumption as a religion. I won’t go into much detail here, but the simplest I’ve found could be seen as character-based producerism: I only consume what I need and what I symbolically appreciate because of its reflection of my values.
If I have a nice cigar in my smoking room, it’s not because I always need a new, better cigar. It’s because I am rewarding myself to make a symbolic statement about my own production in other areas. It’s about who I am as a person. That means even if the cigar ends up being too dry or poorly constructed, it won’t be upsetting – the symbolism will work.
When I bought my Cadillac CTS-V, it wasn’t because I always need the latest and greatest new car. It was because I knew what it stood for: hard work, innovation, and finally achieving a set financial goal. A few months ago, it was accidentally scratched – it didn’t bother me, because the car wasn’t the goal. Being a good man was. The distinction is one most will always miss.
Perspective – focusing on who one is and what things mean – is the simplest antidote for consumerism of which I’m aware.