A Culture of Consumerism

While gifts and gadgets can make our lives easier, that doesn’t always mean better.


by Anna Massman, Opinion Editor

As this past Christmas approached, I found myself in a predicament many privileged teenagers know all too well: I couldn’t think of anything to put on my Christmas list.

I panicked and– as any good teenager does– turned to the internet. Articles upon articles of “The Hottest Gifts of 2022” were immediately at my fingertips, beckoning me into their slideshows full of popular, random and surprisingly alluring goods.
Although none of these picks made it to my list, I was taken aback by how convincing some items were of their necessity in my life: do I need a sunrise light to fix my sleep patterns? Or an ice roller to make myself look less puffy? These are exactly the questions companies and advertisers want you to, and know you will, ask. But the question at the core of every sales pitch is this: Will this product make me happier?

It might, it might not.

While some things really do have the power to enhance our lives, (I’m looking at you, Lululemon leggings) there’s a truckload full of reasons not to let yourself be swept up in the constant pursuit of material goods.

For one, there’s always something better.

In 2017, guess which iPhone was hot stuff? The iPhone 8. Six years later, guess which iPhone looks like an archaic artifact drudged up from the Roman Ruins? You guessed it, the iPhone 8.

While Apple is one of the most prominent faces of consumerism, the need for newness is present all over our society. Marketing phrases such as “cutting edge” or “innovative” draw people in like moths to an overpriced flame. While exciting, this constant “someone has something better” mindset can wreak havoc on your happiness if you let it. I think the best way to combat this comparative tendency is by practicing gratitude. Be aware of the things you already have, whether it’s your family, house or even your iPhone 8.

Another danger of materialism is its ability to blind you to what would actually improve your life. While that fancy light could make my mornings more peaceful, going to bed at a more reasonable time would probably be much more helpful. Although I could wait for that facial roller to take care of my morning puffiness, maybe I just need to have more confidence in my own skin. When you give material items power over your life, you’re ignoring the real root of your problems and holding yourself back from acting on them. Try considering what problem you’re really trying to solve before making your next unnecessary purchase, and you just might fix it on your own.

The final (and I think most unselfish) reason to avoid excessive consumption is waste. The unsustainable practices of fast-fashion companies, the emissions of online orders and the plastic containers used by coffee shops all contribute to our dirty footprint on the environment.
There are so many ways to avoid this problem, like using reusable products when you can, buying local or resold goods and supporting sustainable companies. Today, it’s easier than ever to find high-quality, socially responsible alternatives in clothing, coffees – even phone cases. This is called being a “conscious consumer” and it’s exceedingly simple. By putting thought into when and what you’re buying, you’re improving both your world and ours.

I believe the real solution to our society’s obsession with consumerism is awareness. While some purchases can improve your life, it’s up to you to determine if they truly support your values. You are in control of both identifying the problems you’re trying to fix and utilizing what you already have to solve them. Because although our culture of consumerism tries to convince us otherwise, you have so much more than your purchases could ever give you.