Entry 6: First 2 Paragraphs of Paper 1

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Hi all:

To get the ball rolling, write what you think might be the first two paragraphs of your paper 1.

Approach this writing as a rough draft.  These paragraphs may or may not appear in your final paper.

Post these paragraphs to the blog and be sure to bring hard copy to class.

Thank you.


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Advertising is a constant factor in our everyday lives. Not a day goes by where we aren’t bombarded with billboards, commercials, sidebar advertisements online, ads in papers and magazines, etc. We live in a fast paced society where many people’s lives are not stable nor are people overly confident in how they’re living their lives and what they are doing. This is where advertisement has stepped in to be a comforting factor when our insecurities tell us that we are lacking. Advertisements and products work by creating a sense of comfort for us in a constantly changing society. Ads show us that one thing that we need to make our everyday life easier, our faces brighter, and our days more fun. Our purchases help to define who we are and what we need to be the perfect person that we dream of becoming.
According to Gary Cross, the author of “Setting the Course,” “New consumer goods…introduced new styles of life, especially fresh ways of accommodating the societal changes that gripped turn-of-the-century Americans” (Cross, 18). Ways of life have changed drastically within the past 50 years. Life has become very much like a fast paced race that leaves many people unsure of how to act and how to continue due to all of the constant changes within society. Consumerism and advertisements help with that a lot, as they calm and console many of us by making it very clear to us what we must buy in order to live the lifestyle we want or feel as happy and successful as we hope to be. Advertisements simplify matters by simply telling us what we should buy. Buy this brand watch because it will never miss a second while staying stylish and trendy screams this billboard as you drive by. Try this face lotion and your skin will feel as soft as when you were a baby says the full-length ad in your favorite magazine. Ads don’t give us choices, they simply tell us exactly what we need to buy and how it will positively affect our life. They comfort us by handing us the solutions to our everyday problems and leaving us not option but to accept.

Over the years, consumerism has led people all around the world to believe that without technological advancements the world would not be able to function. The never-ending development of the consumer lifestyle around society shows the most demanding and the most elemental change human beings has ever familiarized upon. Technology is a part of everyday life that we treat almost as human. With its continual development, people have learned to attribute every type of emotion towards it. As technology breaks or falls apart, people yell and cry; as technology shortens the time needed to finish tasks and makes life easier, people are genuinely happy. Technology has created a cyber space for people: it has provided an escape for those who want to occupy themselves; it has also proved detrimental to those who lose track of time, so engrossed in technological world that they cannot decipher between reality and the imaginary. However, the irony lies that while most people seemingly yearn to obtain a life made easier with consumerist ideals, it has unsuccessfully offered us with a sense of fulfillment or satisfaction.
As Suzuki has mentioned, “ Technology can be an enormously valuable asset, but when it ceases to be a tool for a specific purpose and become an end in itself, that’s when you know we’ve lost perspective. And perspective in the digital age is more important than ever.” (Suzuki 1). As mass production from the media and the advertisement has increasingly led the role of how we live today, we must also not forget how technology has made our lives convoluted and introverted more than ever. As being bombarded with advertisements everyday, the effect of shopping for commodities, and constant of having technological assets are all things that Americans go through everyday. We fill our empty selves with the new objects we surround us with. As we lose our perspective from seeking fulfillment not through individuals but through commodities to void the emotions of sadness, emptiness, and boredom, we realize that the only reason we want to live is for the sake of happiness, fulfillments, and acceptance. We no longer grasp or understand the importance of our negative senses but only though the positive effects that we want to yearn for or to seek. In this matter, consumerism has not only taken away our ideal as humans but we have also lost connections between one another as an individual. The ultimate choice is the difference between what we want and what we really need. As people constantly struggle within the mindset of what is shown in the media, the need for perfection is always gained throughout the purchasing that the American corporations give. The constant purchasing of unnecessary new technological advancements are always attached to something much more greater: creating a never-ending cycle of greed and possession.

Just looking at credit card bills over the past few years, it is easy to see a correlation between spending and relationships. Whether it’s dinner and a movie, surprise gifts, or doting on her at the mall, every facet of modern day romances seems to have some relation to cold, hard, cash. It wasn’t always this way, but in today’s consumer society people are led to believe that even the most intimate interactions between human beings must take on a consumerist spin. As Eva Illouz puts it in her book Consuming the Romantic Utopia: Love and the Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism, “The main difference between romantic practices “then” and “now” had to do with cost.”

With a rise in consumer society, there had to come a change in the definition of acts of courtship. In the early twentieth century courting was made up of “go[ing] on hay rides and barn dances, to sugar off during the spring when sap starts flowing from sugar maples, go[ing] on school picnics on Sundays…”(67) and other such encounters that did not require money as much as they required time. These acts were predominantly based around experiences that brought the community together, but as consumerism took hold, community was traded for individualism and these kinds of dates ceased to interest modern Romeo and Juliettes. As this new type of society took form, the amount of expendable money that people possessed became increasingly important and romantic rendezvous transformed into acts that were based around consumption of goods. In this culture, “seduction was to be achieved and maintained through the consumption of products…”(66) Instead of hay rides, couples would go out for dinner and a movie and instead of going on their school picnics, lovers would opt to pay money to watch a movie in the glamorous cinema.

All over the world, in United States especially, the power of consumerism is overtaking the lives of the people. The pressures of consumerism are present in every subject of our lives. The obligation felt to project the right self image are overshadowed by the necessity to acquire a certain look. Purchasing merchandise becomes a commitment that must be fulfilled in order to obtain a comfortable life in today’s society. A quest for acceptance and security is never ending, but people continue to strive towards this intangible goal, no matter what the cost. Philip Cushman described it as, “Filling and healing the empty self (Pg. 32).” These pressures are enforced by the use of advertising and psychoanalysis and we become victims of this business.
A certain desire for approval and inclusion is built within the human nature, we wish to be someone we are not at a constant level. This burden was brought upon the society by advertising. An individual was made to believe that he will be judged by his appearance and the quality of his success in life was measured by his physical representation of himself. Christopher Lasch described this feeling as, “The self-image he projects counts for more than accumulated experience, since he will be judged, both by his colleagues and superiors at work and by the strangers he encounters on the street, according to his possessions (Pg. 53).” Material objects now symbolize who we are and the need to possess these objects has been emphasized by the consumer industries. Ads that depict models and movie stars are using a psychological approach to emphasize that the way you look at the moment is wrong and the way you should look like can only be achieved by purchasing certain products. Philip Cushman depicted his opinion on ads saying, “Ads substitute the concept of life-style: the experiences and material possessions that are identified with the celebrity or model. In this way life-style is used as a pseudoculture that promises an instant, illusory cure, a transformation (Pg. 37).”

Consumerism has become imperative to modern society as it impacts our daily choices and shapes our perception of life itself. Technology’s new products have had a huge, positive impact on the economy and led to many improvements in people’s everyday lives. The highly debated upon question of whether or not money leads to happiness encourages an extensive evaluation of consumerism and happiness in America.

The abundance of new and improved gadgets in America has enabled our society to complete all sorts of different tasks in a timely, persistent matter. Also, there are an infinite number of products being sold all over the world that fulfill certain individuals’ specific wants and desires. As time passes, society and technology advance in sync with one another. Nowadays, communication is key to our evolving society and “We are in touch with each other as never before-cell phones, Internet, text messaging, email. In fact, we now have to make an effort not to be in touch with other people (Suzuki 5)”. We are so lucky to have all these resources available to us as in comparison to previous generations who weren’t able to have an iPod, blackberry, or computer. Some people may argue that this progressive consumption of improved goods is only hurting society and the simplicity of buying a newer product only results in temporary happiness, or a quick fix. But in actuality, as materialistic as this may sound, people with more money who purchase these products have a greater chance at obtaining happiness in life and avoiding certain stresses that specific products are created to conquer. Though it is thought that “We tend to forget that the world we live in today-the electronic age -barely registers in the timeline of human history (Suzuki 208)”, I believe that this “electronic age” was inevitable as society is destined to revolutionize itself as technology advances. Consumption is not hurting American society when consumption can acquire long-term happiness in one’s life. Therefore, happiness is ultimately governed by one’s total state of being, yet will diminish when associated with the tyranny of economic stress. In my opinion, consumption and money itself does not directly produce happiness in one’s life, however without money and the ability to buy products one will fall victim to everyday stresses, therefore enter an ongoing state of unhappiness.

When people talk of the horrors of modern consumerism, how it has become its own culture, and controls the population like an invisible hand, they are really concentrating their concern in the wrong place. Consumerism has been around for thousands of years. People have always wanted more stuff, whether to make their lives easier, to show off and attract the opposite sex, or just cause they like having lots of possessions. Modern advertising, however, has not. Modern advertising is the real cause of the consumer excessiveness in the modern world, and thus is what needs to be concentrated on. To this end, in this essay, I will first concentrate on the extreme effects of advertising, then on the techniques used, and I will conclude with what this all means for the modern American society in general.
Twelve year old girls; obsessed with the newest in fashion from the most expensive of shops; this is what advertising has accomplished. While in the past people made their own decisions about what they wanted or needed, nowadays that decision is made for them by billboards, flashing signs, and of course the television. Even politics has become a giant advertisement. What used to be voting for the best candidate, has become choosing whoever makes you feel good, or was figured in that witty campaign ad on television, or came to visit your town and hugged that cute kid. People relying on ads to tell them what to think, this cannot be healthy. And this is not even where it stops. Advertising associates products with class, and even creates social classes out of nowhere. Suddenly, you are upper class because you own this car, or wear these types of clothes. It also creates stereotypes; you are this type of mother because you buy this cereal, and a really relevant issue these days, you are sexy if you look like these women, or you are a good looking guy only if you have an eight pack (I’m not really worried because I do have an eight pack, but I can see how others could be bothered by this). Advertising is a bid for control of the market, whether it’s over what ketchup you should get, or whether you should buy these clothes to be higher class. And it seems any lengths will be taken to accomplish this monopoly.

There is no question that these days Americans are equipped with more “toys” than ever; the iPod, the X-box, DVD players, the kindle, rockband, digital candles, camera phone, clothes, and blackberries, the list goes on and on. Americans are consuming all these toys simply in a “quest of self-fulfillment”, which leads to the growth of “narcissism”. So is all that stands in the way of Americans reclaiming their position as leaders of the free world our toys? How advanced could our country be if instead of reading glamour articles and looking at the new fashion for the month at every available chance we got, Americans spent the extra time attempting to learn rocket science, discover life on a new planet or spend time with there family. Consumerism in turn takes humans away from what’s important in their lives and allows them to spend precious time and resources on otherwise useless products.
Consumerism has let the idea of intellectual control fall into the hands of an elite few who have reigned in all the power now. It is more important than ever, especially now, that workers be intellectuals, for society should be made up of people who are curious about everything and question it all rather than line up like ducks in a row behind one who leads the way. “What is more important than working men and women having control over their own work?” Recently people have become more and more obsessed about “owning things”. Trends are being followed now more than ever and the exclusive title of celebrity can now be rented out to anyone who can afford it. However the drastic rise in consumerism happened when the country shifted into the industrial era. “Industrialism by its very nature tends to discourage home production and to make people dependant on the market”. Even the assembly lines tended to discourage independent thinking, people were no longer required to learn a trade but rather a repetitive activity, which leads beings to make workers think they are no longer capable to make decisions for themselves, simply what other people tell them is best. This idea of consumerism started on a small scale by simply telling workers and families what was best for them and has now grown on such a large scale that children in middle school are getting ridiculed if they don’t own the right brand of jeans.

Consumerism has greatly contributed to shaping what is now the modern lifestyle of the average American. It has reinforced progressivism in our society so that we are constantly moving towards a better, more improved way to live. Consumerism has also enhanced our system of democracy through the nondiscriminatory availibility of products. Americans have the freedom to purchase any item of their desire, which contributes quite substantially to the individual's sense of independence. This purchasing power that comes with consuming goods also encourages a healthy work ethic. People can actually see the fruits of their labor through the attainment of nice belongings. In addition, consumerism has provided people with a means for self expression that did not previously exist. Today's consumer culture has undeniably contributed to the modernity of the United States and has enabled people to live a more comfortable, favorable life.

The goods available in stores across the country are not exclusive to any one class, race, or gender. Gary Cross commented on this revolutionary idea, as it was in the early twentieth century, stating that "Social Status and birth were no longer relevant in this ultimate democracy of spending." This meant that everyone had the freedom to consume given they had enough money to do so. Low and middle class people could work hard, or save up their money and purchase the same items of the upper class. This easily supported, and continues to support the freedom and democracy upon which our country was founded. From the outside, it appeared just this way as, "Europeans saw the United States as the land of high wages, a place where common laborers could own the cars they helped to make" (Cross, 19). The ability to purchase items that convenience, or better one's life is extremely liberating. When Henry Ford made the automobile accessible to thousands of Americans, for instance, these people were now free to travel at their own accord. Consumerism has undoubtedly liberated the masses and continues to symbolize the freedom granted to all in the United States.

In the last one hundred years humanity has been graced with a panoply of wonderful technical gadgets. Automobiles, refrigerators, microwave ovens, telephones, television, and airplanes are simply some of the more obvious innovations that have completely changed the modern American lifestyle. These technological marvels would have been completely foreign to our great-grandparents, who were more than likely slaving away on some cornfield and reading by candlelight at night. While each of the aforementioned inventions is different, they are all products of a consumer society. Consumerism has resulted in a contemporary America where the average individual lives better than a 16th century monarch. And while it is certainly not perfect, consumerism has bred technologies that have made life easier and better for countless people.
Since the turn of the 20th century, consumer society and technological advancement have been inexorably bound by the hope of profit. in 1913, Henry Ford invented the assembly line, which made it possible for the average Joe to afford a brand spankin’ new Model T at a mere 290 dollars (Cross, 17). By the end of the 1920s, Americans were buying automobiles at a rate that would not be achieved by Britain until the 1970s. Following the Model T, early entrepreneurs perfected household refrigerators, washing and drying machines, radios, and mass indoor plumbing, all of which were made available to Americans. By the end of the 1920s, Americans were living extravagantly while the rest of the world struggled to catch up.

The idea of dating has changed from prior generations. Before this generation, an idea of a date would be the boy asking the girl's father if he could take her to dinner and a movie. The guy would always pay and it would be questionable if a kiss would even be acceptable to end the night with. This idea of a date has definitely changed. College life is filled with meaningless "hookups" that ultimately mean nothing to the two. Drunk mistakes fill up college kids' lives and unless you really hit off you may never see them again.
Times have changed for the worse. In my opinion, I feel like dating is not a big deal anymore; people do not make it out to be anything special. The American society has changed its values. It seems that money is the only thing that can make a date special. If you do not go somewhere nice on a date it is considered a careless date. People do not focus on what really makes the date, and that is the relationship that the two people have together.

We Are Not What We Own

The more I start to think about all the readings and articles I have read so far on consumerism, especially in the American society, I find myself getting really frustrated about how compulsory buyers and consumers in general attach themselves to material objects and possessions. Many people in this consumer age regard their possessions as part of themselves. In his article “we are what we own”, Belk said, “we are what we have and possess and that possessions are an important component of the sense of self” (Belk 77). The question that I keep pondering on in my mind and keep asking myself over and over again is that, are the things that we own truly defines who we are and most importantly, does these material objects define our sense of self and identity. The deeper I think about these questions, I’m beginning to think that the kind of culture, society and family a person is brought up in plays a significant role and influences that person about what defines his/her identity and a sense of self.

According to Belk, the author of “are we what we own” explores how we construct our sense of self through the projection of possessions. He said, “valued possessions act as signs of the self that are essential in their own right for its continued cultivation, and hence the world of meaning that we create for ourselves, and that creates our selves, extends literally into the objective surroundings” (Belk 78). This quote explains that the possessions that we value as important creates our sense of self and gives us meaning in the surroundings we are in therefore what is ours, we feel that same way about ourselves. I have a hard time accepting this viewpoint presented by the author because I personally believe that the possessions of material objects doesn’t define our identity and our sense of self because I think that the true us comes from within and it’s shaped by the experiences we go through in life. How we see ourselves shouldn’t be the determine factor of what we own. Accumulation of these possessions are there to support and assist us in our fast pace world. My intention in this paper is to present a different view on material objects by using myself as an example to get the point across and explore in my opinion why I belief these possessions doesn’t define who we are.

The consumer society is essential in life today, because it compels us to find our identities, pursue happiness, and fulfill inner emptiness through commodities. We allow products to define us as our personalities and defining traits seem to become meaningless in todays society. Without knowing someone on an personal level, the only way one can recognize their individuality is through the stuff they own and how they present themselves. We express our self-image through our possessions and hope that we can obtain public approval and improve our social status. We rely on the acceptance of others to form our identities, and if people don’t like something about us, we simply change it. Consumerism encourages us to change ourselves for the better, and become apart of society where material objects control everyday life.

Since the early 20th century, the pressure to appeal to others began to drive our everyday actions, especially our purchases. It has been observed throughout history that “Americans in the World War II era came to need self-improvement in a form and to a degree unknown before.” (Cushman 604) At this time, the people of our country were particularly vulnerable to believe that something in their life was missing, and had to be fulfilled through tangible things rather than through valuable experiences. Businesses began to recognize America’s sense of meaninglessness and this fueled a whole self-improvement industry. It seems that America always comes out to be first in any aspect of competition with the world, because its citizens always want to be number one and are incessantly self-improving. We want our identities to reflect our best possible selves.

Over the years, consumerism has become a part of our lives. We rely heavily on consumer products everyday that it has become a factor in determining our emotions or our needs for the day. Different sorts of consumer products come out every couple of weeks striving society to yearn for them. If we do not get something we wanted we are our day is foreshadowed to be ruined. We tend to show a stronger affection to those who give us things we want, even though we might not need them. On holidays, we are expected to show our affection to others by giving them the products they longed for for the amount of time that product came out. The amounts of gifts we provide and amount of expenses we spend usually shows how much we care about the other individual.
When my siblings and I finally convinced our mother to get us our own cell phones, we were really excited. However, a few days later, we were trying to convince her to get us the newer version of the cell phone. Although but phones provided the same function, our needs changed to the appearance and qualities that came with the phone as well. We continually thanked our mother and told her how much we loved her when she provided us with the phones we wanted. With all of these new commodities, people have turned away from showing their emotions in a more meaningful way, and turn to spending money to define their affection. Even though these new inventions make our lives a little bit easier, we should not have to rely on them to make us happy.

Today's consumer society has altered people's relationships with their family, friends, and lovers. It has done so with the extension of childhood, the liberation of children, and the apparent need of goods and appearances. People no longer get to know you before judging, they can look at your back pocket or your cellular device. Children are no longer required to attend family meals because they are out at the movies or the mall with their friends. Technological development coinciding with the consumerism that envelopes us has created alternate realities and alternate forms of communication for dating that can either help people meet or can tear people apart. It seems as if the world is less personal and more about convenience.
Advertising and consumerism have changed how people interact in relationships “By 1910, women were already 40 percent of the audience in New York. And many observers believed that the movie houses drew men away from male saloons for outings with women. The new rituals of dating accompanied this commercial culture of fun," (pg. 26) according to Gary Cross from An All Consuming Century. It is eye opening to consider how dating has been shaped by consumerism. In the past, relationships developed more within communities and the couple spent time together at their parents’ houses. Dates took place at community gatherings and school functions. Today dates are all about dishing out cash; movies, food, even just driving, all require money. You have to have a car to take out someone, but a car is just part of the consumptive cycle. Advertising makes all these consumer activities seem romantic and the right way to show affection but they do not make people more loving, or thoughtful.

There is a widespread revulsion among many people with the unnaturalness and growing popularity of the video or online games that created virtual realities played by many children and adolescents as well as some adults. However, these same people who are eager to judge those who live in a “virtual world” are usually also living out their own needs and emotions in a largely artificial, consumption-driven society. It is difficult to know whether consumerism has caused this shift in our life away from the natural or merely filled in the void created by other forces, but it is clear that our society is becoming more and more defined by consumerism.

Consumption has become a quickly growing part of our lives. We are almost literally bombarded on a daily basis by advertisements from absolutely everywhere (now even on banana stickers!); these often psychological consumer messages play a large part in influencing our decisions, feelings, and view of the world. However, advertisements are just one piece of the larger puzzle of the predominance and importance of material goods and their role in our modern society. It is becoming increasingly apparent that consumerism is redirecting or filling in for many of our natural emotional, psychological, and social needs. When we are unable to meet our instinctive needs due to the unnatural state of our society, we turn to the emotional, psychological and social outlets provided to us by consumerism. In particular we use consumerism and the products that it creates for us, to live out our natural need to explore the world around us, to practice our often-suppressed love of choice and creativity, to reconstruct a feeling of community, and to create a much-needed sense of self-confidence and identity for ourselves.

Buying Our Identities

“Identity for sale, identity for sale! Just in, the product that will hide all of your insecurities and fears! Don’t forget to purchase a life on your way out!”. Now, if you heard someone yelling this in the midst of the mall, you would think they were deranged, be offended, or maybe even a little of both. But say a salesman approaches you and entices you towards the brand new car on display, adding, “See how glamorous a life you could lead; just enter your name and you could be our grand winner”. If the odds were in your favor, wouldn’t you be the slightest bit tempted? These two sales attempts are examples of the same relatively new reality: products are sold based on desires and individual identities rather than as necessities.

This shift in consumerism took place when advertisers realized that they could make humans act irrationally by linking material items to emotional appeals. Showcased in the 1920’s in America, the advertising industry transformed the image of women smoking cigarettes from being taboo to portraying freedom and power. Now that the purchase of consumer items is dependent on our temporary feelings, we cannot seem to acquire enough. If we are happy, we buy. If we are sad, we buy. Even if we are content with our lives, we buy. The theory that we are never truly satisfied as individuals and are only momentarily filled up is referred to as the “’Empty Self’: … a self that seeks the experience of being continually filled up by consuming goods, calories, experiences, politicians, romantic partners, and empathic therapists in an attempt to combat the growing alienation and fragmentation of its era" (Cushman, p. 32).

What would someone think if I suddenly trekked into a deep, isolated canyon cave, built a small four-sided wooden box, and remained there for several years? Everyday I’d be alone, sitting in my box, meditating in simplicity and reaching self-actualization. In Buddhist culture, I’d be considered a saint. However, In the American “consumer” society, people would think I’m off my rocker.
The American “consumer” society has created a new world. Our beliefs and values have been overwhelmingly altered; we define our existence and personal identities through externalities. Rather than trusting from within, we place greater reliance and respect upon products. We can witness just how different we’ve become when comparing our culture to the Tibetan Buddhist culture. People of the Buddhist culture find spiritual greatness through taking meditative retreats. Buddhist Yogis exile themselves from society for years at a time, looking within themselves in order to achieve a deep knowledge of the “true nature” of the world. This “inward state” places little attention on things found in the exterior. On the contrary, if we were to take such a retreat in the American “consumer” culture, we’d be viewed as weak, lazy, and unable to cope with the world. In the “consumer” society, the answers to our problems are found on the shelves at stores. Whether it be a carton of ice cream after a hard breakup, or a “lunchable” for the mother who didn’t have the time to make her child lunch, the solutions to our issues can be purchased for a price. We place great value upon what we buy, be it the newest designer brand jeans, or the exciting updated iPod. One’s greatness, success and identity is judged by the money they make, and what they can later spend it on.
Identity was once described as “the sameness of a person or thing at all times or in all circumstances”. This definition has changed over time with the introduction of the consumer society. The word is now described as something “fluid” and ever changing. It lacks permanence and stability. In the American “consumer” society, we can no longer find our own identity by looking inside ourselves. Instead, we take a trip to the mall.

Consumer Goods- Abused Drug?

People have addictions to various substances, but can addictions exist in regards to material goods? I think yes. In today’s society people consume these things as if the products were keeping them alive; completely obsessed with having the latest model of the iPod Touch and dependent on their Blackberries, or should I call them Crackberrys. However, as with all addictions there are negative consequences. From overwhelming our landfills to disillusioning us from the world around us consumer goods has gone from faithful servant to worldwide villain, but can this villain be stopped and the addiction tamed.

Since the 1900’s, “to consumer took on a whole new meaning” (Cross 15). There was a point in time when the consumer trend began, at first it was modest, families would throw out their old radios and installed the first black and white television set in the living room. But soon there was one in every room of the house, and before you knew it you were people were swapping out those black and white TVs for color ones, then bigger ones, then flatter ones and so on. “From the constant need to upgrade to the latest model to the marketing collateral and the outrageous amount of packing that comes with even the smallest gizmo, the environmental costs of all this electronic stuff are enormous” (Suzuki 1).

Consumerism has steadily become more and more influential upon people’s everyday lives. Constantly you hear of people referring to a technology of daily use as something they would be unable to live without for an extended period of time. Or of people referring to an object or objects as a symbolic extension of themselves. But to what extent do the things we own define us and our happiness? The products that we as a society consume have evolved to be tings that individuals define themselves by and base their happiness upon.
The act of consuming itself has evolved over generations. We now live in a time of mass production and mass consumption: companies are constantly coming out with new products causing people to consume to keep up with these products. Not only has consumerism evolved, but the way that people view the things that they buy has also changed. Advertisers do an excellent job of making their targeted audience believe that they need their product in order to function or to be happy. This is where it begins: individuals start to believe that a certain product is going to make them happy or make them better as a person.

Consumer society began in the early twentieth century. Spurred by technological and social changes, consumer society was made possible by the Industrial Revolution. People now have the means to mass produce goods in order to allow a consumer society to form and take place. Consumerism begins to flourish in the early 1920’s and by the 1950’s it quickly becomes the corner stone of the American economy. Continual production and consumption of goods allow for the economy to grow and develop. But, because most of these goods were nonessential products, consumer society required the help of psychology to expand and assure its livelihood.
Bernays, a psychologist and a nephew of Sigmund Freud, used his uncle’s psychoanalytical ideas to manipulate public opinion. This was the start of modern advertisement. Advertisement no longer used facts to logically convince people to buy their product but rather it appealed to the irrational. Products were no longer bought because there was a need and it fulfilled that need. Rather, consumer goods were bought because they reflected their buyers. Products were but the reflection of the buyer’s identity; it reflected their wants, their desires, and their own self-image. A woman did not necessarily smoke because she liked it. But rather, she smoked because she has the irrational idea that smoking was liberating. It reflected her desire to have power and worth in a male dominated society. It reflected her own self-image of being a strong woman. The cigarette became her symbol of freedom and liberation from the traditional bonds of womanhood. They were her “torches of freedom.” With no logical basis, smoking had become the symbolic representation of women’s liberation.

Consumerism allows women to give voice to their identity but it opens up a window for negative stereotypes of what a woman should represent. Women magazines help encourage women to display the latest fashion, cosmetics, and to buy “household goods”. The media encourages the idea that “you can be whatever you want”. But according to a woman’s possessions, clothing, and personality, she opens up a door were she faces discrimination, oppression, sexism, rejection, and definitions of what “feminine beauty” is. At times the media can be a source of encouragement, but it can also enforce the idea of a sexist society, oppression, and subordination. The idea of a sexist society, oppression, and subordination is enforced when men are presented with cosmetics, fashion, and household goods which encourages the men what to expect from a woman. Consumerism is a form of distorting patriarchal and traditional roles by giving women a way of freeing themselves from patriarchal and social norms but they can also be considered as threats to a heterosexual society.
Consumerism has been a source of liberation and freedom towards women roles. It has given her an opportunity to make her own decisions as well as the chance to adopt an identity and get rid of it like a “change of custom”(p.57). Being able to adopt and have a “self-identity,” has given her way to independence, difference, and fashion but during the World War II era, women were blamed of being unpatriotic, un-American, and “more extreme”. During this period, the zoot suit style emerged creating a lot of discomfort, rejection, and mixed feelings. Girls who dressed in Zoot Suits, also known as Pachuco style, got the reputation of being disobedient, delinquent, gang related, rebellious, un-lady like, disrespectful, masculine, prostitutes, etc…The media supported these negative traits by invoking them as “the disreputable, delinquent, and disloyal Pachuca”. But girls considered the zoot suit style the new fashion and not all those negative characteristics.

"These electronics may make our lives easier, but I often question whether they are making our lives better". This is the general topic I want to focus on throughout my paper. First I want to acknowledge the idea that technological advancements do make our lives easier. But how so? I think they make our lives easier because they make things quicker and faster. For example, our whole getting in contact with one another system has been completely made easier. Way back in the day, it began with a messenger and that would take a long time, and sometimes the messenger died because of how long the journey took. Then came the telegram and then hand written letters in the mail and email and now you can instantly come in contact with someone via internet chatting or facebook or you can update people on your life via twitter. Getting in contact with people immediately has made life easier because you don't have to wait to hear from someone and you can make plans and know where and when you're going immediately.
But are our lives enhanced by the amazing gadgets and gizmos the society has to offer? Answers to this question will vary, I'm sure. These electronics, while handy and useful, create distance between people and the outside world. Electronics are great because they are fun, up to date, extremely useful and helpful, but when you step back and really look at it, they are hurting society as well. People are so removed from the natural world that they would spend an entire car trip watching a dvd on the back of a seat or playing on their phone rather than look at the beautiful nature outside. People are more connected with things rather than people these days. Things that cannot possibly give them what they truly want back. People are escaping from the real world and losing themselves in the electronics, and that does not benefit anyone. In fact, it makes for ultimately sad, lonely, and isolated people. This also leads to The Empty Self article. These lonely, isolate people then turn to consumer goods to fill these voids and absences in their lives. People today mostly buy based off their desires and feelings versus what they actually need.

The consumer world has evolved greatly over time. Evolution began slow and has now reached new heights. People are constantly searching for new products to increase social status as well as improve the overall quality of life. The consumption of goods by people of the past is unmatched by those of today. This increase is seen to be primarily aided by the use of advertising.
The advertising world has evolved in sync with the consumer in order to appeal to consumers. With technology always advancing, companies have the ability to attract consumers in many different ways. In the past, billboards and radio ads were the most popular and most effective forms of advertising. Today, companies need more in their box of ammunition to attract buyers. We live in an time of heightened consumerism; in a time where people are more willing than ever to buy and companies are fighting to sell. Through the use of different advertising techniques, companies are able to attract these eager consumers and watch their products fly to success.

The switch from the past era of the pre-industrial revolution to a new consumer society was accompanied by the equally important the switch from a politically and religiously motivated democracy to one truly driven by the people through consumption. This change gave people the power to direct the future of technological development and the politics behind such development, since they were the ones who decided what was to be funded. Whether they knew it or not, every item they purchased was a vote: a vote for what products deserved to survive, what companies would be allowed to stay in business, and what improvements needed to be made in the industry. Each vote answered the fundamental question, often better than the individual could; what do I want? Yet, the overall attitude toward our consumer society portrays to me a feeling of negativity, seemingly based on the notions that consumerism is self-indulging and creatively limiting.
As to the aspect of self-indulgence, we should be sure whether or not we think this a good or bad thing for our nation. Self-indulgence implies a manner of living in which one seeks things out that one wants. How is this done? The typical first step is to go about gathering the means by which a trade may be facilitated, that is, to work to earn money. So here we have an individual who is working hard in our society, which is a good thing, taken at face value. Next, the individual takes the earnings and spends them on something that they want. This economic trade is a single occurrence of a transaction on which our society is dependent. This system is thus, self sustaining and internally generating. In addition, this type of trade is nothing new. We have been doing this sort of thing for centuries, and hasn't it worked great? What other means of living with others could work? Self-indulgence may be prevalent in this society, but it is a very positive, natural trait that all humans have.

As children, we learn basic mannerisms, basic arithmetic, basic hygienic habits, and, perhaps sub-consciously, the basic social connections between family and material goods. We learn the difference between family connections and gadgets, toys, stuffed animals, and their similarities. However, when closely reviewing personal attachments between the two, is there any difference? Was ones emotional relationship with a special stuffed animal bunny different from their mom or dad? Though it may seem ridiculous that a stuffed bunny may have he same relationship as one would have with a parent, think of the relationships between people and computers, cell phones, iPods nowadays—there is a definite twisted companionship, deluded by the normality of constant consumerism. The emotional and dependent attachments between “things” and family have become synonymous with each other, causing a loss of family, both in the traditional sense and realistic bond between members, most importantly between child and parent.
At a young age, we learn—are almost engrained—with the “necessities” in life and their intimate importance. As child becomes adult, the emotional ties change. Boy becomes man and his “Self…the sum total of all that he can call his” changes into “his clothes and his house, his wife and children, his ancestors and friends, his reputation and works, his lands, and yacht and back-account” and, sadly, “all these things give him the same emotions” (Belk, 76). The relationship between his valuable things and his family become blurred together in the spectrum of priorities, leaving a confusing trail linking the false reality of relational possessions to pure relations with wife, child, father, etc. People learn these sabotaging set of priorities at a young age, taught and mirrored by self-absorbed parents. The article “Why the Self is Empty” expresses the “self-serving, highly ambitious, heavily bounded” parents who in turn leave their children isolated and love deprived, breeding “a generation of offspring who have been narcissistically wounded” (Cushman, 599). Meaningful bonds between parent and offspring become almost non-existent, and sometimes it is a relationship based on only the virtual and material level. Parents show their children affections through gifts and goods, buying them what they need to “survive” in a hyper-purchasing and grandiose needy world. Child mirrors the habits and social norms of their parent, cloning them into the same superfluous spending and consumer parent. The new breed of consumers become all-absorbing; they drive SUV’s with a cell phone in one hand, credit card comfortably waiting in their wallet, iPod plugged in while ignoring the wails of a child hungry for human touch coming from the back seat. After some time—perhaps only a few weeks or months—the child’s wails die, body and mind possessed and preoccupied with the TV screen overhead.

Gandhi once said, “Earth provides enough to satisfy man’s need, but not every man’s greed.” As time has progressed through the centuries, man’s greed has grown immensely. Today, consumerism plays a substantially unacceptable role in our society, shifting from the past as it provides the theory that the greater consumption of goods is economically beneficial for our well being. We have been brainwashed to believe lies that fill up our empty identities and feed our desires to “keep up with the Joneses.” We have lost our true character and cannot be individual, but instead desire to be accepted by society’s judgments. Goods and electronics have created a new model identity stemming from what we view as ideal people and ideal commodities. Consumerism has reformed the modern world into what it is today. With additions of propaganda through advertisements and science's breakthroughs with technology, a new idea of identity among people has been engrained in our minds, ultimately creating new models and transitions in social statuses.

One major example of how consumerism has altered humankind is through advancements in modern technology and most importantly through household electronics. David Suzuki, the author of The Big Picture argues that “the constant focus on technological distractions can distance us from our families, our communities, and the world around us.” (195). Although we may believe electronic luxuries like texting, social networking websites, and online video games helps us interact with our communities, they are actually pulling us further away from them. As we come “closer” to each other we are really distancing ourselves. We no longer have to go over to our friend’s house to talk to them, but can instead talk to them via instant messaging or text messages. These ways of communication are impersonal as the real experience of talking to another human being is lost. We now live isolated and insular lives that separate us from the natural world (Suzuki 199). Kids spend less time at the playground and more time with their handheld video games. And adults become more interested in what their iPods have to say than what their friends or spouses do. The simple loss of connections creates a loss in reality.

The birth of the Industrial Revolution paved the road towards a society dictated by the powerful forces of the consumer machine. Through carefully crafted methods of persuasion, advertisers manage to appeal to their consumers on the basis of emotion and feeling, and thus we become pawns of this consumer society. We are programmed to purchase items that advertisers deem necessary to fill our empty voids. However, such materialistic possessions are short lived, and leave us always wanting more. Thus, our consumerist society stays strong, as we remain constantly dissatisfied due to our hunger for more.
Cushman sheds light on the idea of the self being empty, because we have become puppets of a consumer world, and thus lost a sense of our individuality. We fill our emotional voids with meaningless commodities that only bring us a false sense of fulfillment. The concept of “self yearns to acquire and consume as an unconscious way of compensating for what has been lost: It is empty” (32). We have been thought to believe that such possessions are necessary to brining about a sense of joy and satisfaction, and we often overlook the real importances and meanings of life.

“Just remember that no one died,” my then 15-year-old brother cautiously advised me as he walked away from the computer we had shared for the previous three years. In his attempt to remove a virus, he had erased every last file we had created and saved on the computer. Regardless of the fact that it was an accident, I harshly blamed him for the deletion of our countless files, almost as if he had intended for it to happen. In the meantime, wildfires across Southern California caused hundreds of people the loss of their homes, along with most of their possessions, and many were forced into relief shelters. And, there I was, grumbling about a few lousy pictures and former school work. Disappointed in myself, I felt especially ridiculous for allowing the incident to provoke me to the point of instigating a dispute with my brother. Not until that moment did I realize the truth behind my brother’s advice. The consumer society that has emerged within the last century has allowed people to overlook the true values in life, allowing us to take the simple luxuries for granted and downplaying relationships.
In the modern society, we all seem so consumed with materialistic goods. We immediately judge people based on their appearance, namely what they are wearing and how they present themselves. It is true that our lives are facilitated by technology, but as David Suzuki states in “The Big Picture,” however, “when it ceases to be a tool for a specific purpose and becomes an end in itself, that’s when you know we’ve lost perspective.” We have become so caught up with catching up to the latest innovations and improvements that we truly lose sight of what we have to be grateful for. Compared to other populations, we are blessed to have clean, running water, yet we so often waste it and complain about not having enough room to store a million songs on an MP3 player.

The fast paced development of the United States’ consumer society has spurred a great deal of criticism arguing that its creation and advancement have begun to tear our community apart. It is said that we have broken away from our communities to find a new sense of individualism. Through the ongoing development of technology I would not argue that we are becoming more and more independent and individualistic, however, I would not associate the negative connotations that many critics have argued in regards to our consumer society. My reasoning for this lies in the emergence of new communities and more specifically the emergence of the queer community.

Queer people have existed always, but their presence has not always been so unabashed and out in the open as it is today. Now, as we move towards a more secular and liberal culture, we see lesbians in ads, gay men on TV, and multiple lines of products aimed at this group in general. And why is it that this is possible? How come it didn’t happen sooner? The answers to these questions as well as many similar questions lie, in great part, to the development of consumerism. As Cross points out in his article Setting the Course, “"[New consumer goods] introduced new styles of life, especially fresh ways of accommodating the societal changes that gripped turn-of-the century Americans” (Cross 16).

Since the dawn of consumer society, the pursuit of happiness has ultimately become an oxymoron. The true meaning of happiness has been lost or largely covered up and it seems that a never-ending cycle resembling a sort of catch 22 has been created. The meaning of happiness being forgotten gave rise to consumerism, and the engrossment in consumerism masks the ability to re-discover the meaning of happiness.

Happiness has become a rare state of mind; a state of mind that was once easily attainable in the times before industrialization and consumerism. A time when happiness meant the gratification that came from gaining the essential, survival needs. This gratification was attained through the satisfaction of putting in hard work and acquiring the necessary skills. It is ironic how the advancements made to allegedly simplify this gratification process has taken away the very essential components needed for such satisfaction to be gained. The saying "You are what you buy" essentially means that happiness equates to the ability to attain desirable material goods. These material good allow people to create temporary identities for themselves which they can and will dispose of once the the illusion of satisfaction that comes along with it dissipates.

Despite the fact that I have tried my very hardest to do so, I still find myself unable to decry consumerism—except perhaps in the sense that it is bad for the environment. Yet most of the commentary we've read on the subject is anti-consumerism for reasons mostly unrelated to ecology. Actually, the vast majority of these writings deal with psychological issues allegedly attributed to consumerism. Some of these issues include complaints about superficiality, loss of personal identity, passivity, and discontentment. I would argue that many of these “problems” either stem from different sources than consumerism, or that they are simply found within the natural human psychology.
Here is one particular example. In Christopher Lasch's “The minimal Self” it is stated that mass production and mass consumption, encourage an unprecedented attention to superficial impressions,” (30) and because of this a man finds himself being judged “according to his possessions, his clothes, and his “personality”--not , as in the nineteenth century, by his “character” (30). This distinction between “personality” and “character” is difficult to accept. Both words appear to mean nearly the same thing. Webster's Dictionary defines “character” as the complex of mental and ethical traits marking and often individualizing a person, group or nation. Personality is then defined as the complex of characteristics that distinguishes an individual or a nation or group. These are strikingly similar definitions. Admittedly there is some difference (not between trait and characteristic as they mean precisely the same thing), but when it is boiled down to how the actual judging of character is accomplished, that difference means very little, if anything.

Everyone can agree that the world we live in today has been tremendously impacted by consumer goods. However there is disagreement between people on whether this is a good or bad thing. From the articles I have read it seems that people cannot decide if consumption has had a positive or negative effect on our society. I am a strong believer that we have benefited greatly from the consumer society and the products they produce for us.
I was quick to notice that a lot of times when we talked during class and went through the articles the same argument about consumer goods came up. A lot of people were positive that consumer goods were just objects, nothing more and nothing less. I found this interesting and something I disagree with. Once I pay for an object it is mine, or a part of me and my identity. If someone were to try and take it away from me I would feel like they took a piece of me. A lot of people would jump to the conclusion that I’m materialistic based on that last statement but the truth is I am far from it. I just get attached to the things that I worked hard for to get, and many others do as well sometimes not even knowing it.

Life in America could not been easier without the development of the Industrial Revolution. Before the Industrial Revolution, most Americans lived in rural areas and worked on farms where all necessities were done by hand; such as foods and clothing. The life expectancy for the average farmer in America was less than 50-years of age. All that changed after the development of the Industrial Revolution in America. Farmers began to migrate into urban areas to look for better jobs and their lives expectancy drastically improved. With better jobs, came a new wave of Americans eager to spend their influx of money. Mass production made it possible to introduce cheap products to the average American consumers thus began the consumer nation. Americans can now buy anything they desire. Life was easier, but it came with a price; we are easily influence by the advertising industry. This paper will explore the effects of consumerism on society.

With the rise in consumerism, came the notion of the “empty self.” To sell their products, the advertisement industry, according to Lears, “attempted to cure by implying that products would magically “transform” the customer’s life” (34). One thing the advertising industry did well was tapping into our inner emptiness in order to sell their products to make us feel whole. Therefore, making us buy unnecessary items to make us feel a sense of self identity.

America has become a center for large amounts of consumption, so much that America has come to be called a consumer society. This surprises me, because my view of America had always been about strong morals of justice, freedom, and democracy. Somewhere in the past century, the economy began to grow and capitalism became a synonym for democracy. Business corporations controlled the media, political leaders, as well as most of the public. People are instructed to go to work, get a good paying job so they can live the life of luxury that is the “American Dream”. For many people, life had turned into a something like a big cycle. They wake up, go to work, come home, spend some money if they can, go to sleep, and wake up the next day to do it all over again. I feel like we’ve become almost one giant biological production line, feeding the growing companies with our time and money. Many of these companies use advertising tricks to reel us in. Advertisement agencies have found a way to target individuals in large masses. They have done this by addressing the basic and personal needs of many humans, such as a yearning for acceptance.
Acceptance doesn’t just relate to an individual’s place among the masses or being well liked and popular. Acceptance is having a place in society of having connections with other humans. Cushman described this idea clearly when he stated: “The self embodies what the culture believes is humankind’s place in the cosmos: its limits, talents, expectations, and prohibitions.” (p. 559) People want to know there is a reason for existence, that there is something special about them that makes them needed in this world.

The changes that have been wrought through the proliferation of the consumer society in America have been labeled and categorized in a particularly negative light. There are many luxuries that we as a people now enjoy and take advantage of on a daily basis that were never possible until the technological revolution. The rapidity with which information is exchanged now has created the opportunity to unify humans on a global scale. Without this cultural phenomenon none of that would have been possible. The technological revolution never would have gained momentum the way it did after WWII without the American people to support it. Authors like David Suzuki demonize the consequences of the societal change to consumerism claiming, "modern life in the industrialized world is often far removed from natural rhythms that, for most of human history, have played a major role in our existence." (202) Rather than claiming this progression to consumerism is unnatural or unhealthy, I would stipulate to the opposite - consumerism was an entirely natural and normal development in human evolution.
Looking at consumerism purely from a moral standpoint seems to lack the requisite depth to fully comprehend the concept itself; macro-behaviors (behaviors displayed by large groups of people) like consumerism can not be categorized as good or bad. Some consequences themselves of this overarching behavior can individually be criticized, but as a whole there is nothing inherent to consumerism that is good or bad. Rather, this concept must be scrutinized from a completely different perspective. Evolutionarily speaking, Americans were forced to respond to historical situations that were less than ideal. Consumerism resulted.

We are living in the age of self. Never in human history has there been such an emphasis on the identity of the individual, and the process by which the individual finds himself, emphasizing personal growth, and the journey toward self-actualization. However, this seems also to be an age in which people have lost their sense of community, and inter-relation. We have shifted “from a communal to an individual subject” (Cushman 600), where the interests of the self out weigh the interests of the community, in which we are more concerned with who we are, and our self-interests, then in the communal interest. In a self-motivated society, this lack of communal care means that there is a sense of competition in the search for self, that some must be less successful, in order for others to succeed. I believe that it is this “competitive identity” which dispels our sense of community and interrelation, and that it is this loss of community and interrelation that is humanities greatest adversary.
But is the search for self inherently selfish? Does self-improvement denote a dismissal of societal improvement? I think not! Instead, I believe the search for self has been altered by our current consumer society, it is that consumer society that plagues our community awareness. In this way I believe that the search for self is not inherently responsible for a lack of community. However, that is not to say that consumerism is the culprit either, for I see consumerism as a natural response toward a human emphasis on self. Then what is the culprit? I would answer capitalism. Consumerism has always existed as a natural by product of the concepts of needs and desires, entirely necessary, and therefore estranged from the concepts of right and wrong, however it has been through the efforts of our capitalist society that we have found profit in dictating what those needs and desires may be, and in this way, the search for self-actualization has become a commodity, and the search for self, a good in limited supply. It is this capitalistic, systematic perversion of consumerism, which has created this harmful concept of self.

Advertising today has had a significant effect on the shaping and developing of our society today. The current age we live in has been defined as a consumer society. What this means is we are all on a competition to buy the newest gadget or toy without necessarily needing them. Our abuse of consumption has been a direct result of the manipulation of the advertising industry. The advertising industries goals are to use the irrationality of people in order to sell their product. They are experts in knowing the desires of people. They use this knowledge to not necessarily better the current state of society but to sell their products and better their own bank accounts or companies.
Society really began to change to the society which we know it in the early 20th century. One of the earliest people to start this consumer society is A.A. Brill. This famous psychoanalyst was the man who converted the previously male oriented smoking society to a male and female smoking society through manipulation by advertising. Brills genius plan was to relate the desires of woman to a cigarette. During the early 20th century, one of the main desires for woman was power and equality. Brill took this and related it to a cigarette. Making it represent power. He called them “torches of freedom”. Through this advertising he now not only had half of the society which only contained men smoking but both men and women. Through this example you can see the effects which advertising can have on a society as a whole. They are able to manipulate us and sell us what they make us think we need. With their ability to make us buy and consume, they have converted our society into a society based on consumption and not necessarily on need.

The success of consumerism in America today is due to it’s pleasure seeking society. Society in America has come to define pleasure through the consumption of goods. Because our society expects people to create their identity through the collection of goods, this creates competition and a competitive market. This competitive market has been a success for America on a global level, but not for the individual on the family level. People have started to seek pleasure through the consumption of goods. What happened to seeking pleasure through strong family bonds and long lasting friendships? As long as Americans pursue happiness through the consumption of goods, America’s consumerist society will continue to be successful and grow while families and friends and relationships continue to grow apart.
Americans have come to identify and judge each other based off of the goods that have. So many judgments are made about a person by the car they drive, the clothes they are wearing, the house they live in and any other materialistic goods they possess. Americans are constantly making judgments of other people based off of the materialistic items they possess, rather then the personal qualities and character traits they possess. This creates a drive for Americans to buy and consume items that people will recognize them for. People are beginning to relate to other people through the goods that they possess rather than their personal qualities and character traits. People get to know each other through their knowledge and their consumption of goods. This dampens their social skills and interactions with other people. Identities of people are being made off of what they own and how they look, rather than how they act and the qualities they possess. As consumerism continues to grow in America, the interactions people have with each other will become weaker and weaker, and happiness will come from the consumption of goods.

Consumerism over the last century has been rapidly expanding and rewriting people’s day to day activities and values. With each generation that passes, we become more entrenched in an entirely humanized world, where nearly every facet of life can be aided through a new and relatively recent technology. Children born in this era will grow up with technology devices and will take them for granted. As time progresses, the natural world is being replaced by an urbanized and virtual world created by humans for humans. Although the utility and convenience of consumer goods is impressive, it is too easy to forget they are a small part of a gigantic biological system that is vastly more complex. If our values are not balanced to respect the natural world, our historical roots may be forgotten.
The shift of our society to a consumption based nation is a rolling snowball. As soon as the industrial revolution hit its stride, and goods became inexpensive enough for the median income to afford, consumerism took root. When the switch was made to canned goods, mass produced clothing etc., it became uneconomical to revert to old methods of living. Now that consumers save a certain amount of money on a product, there is money left over to continue to more purchase goods. As affordability rises, the line between needs and wants becomes less important to the point where a want can feel like a need. A modern day example of this is that no-one needs to be able to listen to music all the time with, however nearly everyone owns some sort of MP3 player because they feel as if they need what all there peers have. This trend is visible with less practical items too, such as yo-yos and scooters. What is unfortunate about this trend is that our appetite seems insatiable, the more we buy the more we want. For every item that is bought, it seems there are multiple accessories to augment it. And just a few years after top of the line technology is purchased, it becomes obsolete and it soon replaced by new goods. While there is nothing inherently wrong with buying goods, a problem presents itself when our focus is consumed by material possessions and the money needed to get them.

The increasing value of consumerism is directly proportional to our increasing dependency on material goods. We become obsessed and attached to gadgets that are likely to break or fall out of fashion before the end of the year. This constant fascination of the “bigger and better” prevents us from ever feeling content with our wants and needs. Furthermore, advertisers have clung to our weaknesses and learned to utilize them as selling points. According to Philip Cushman, the author of Why the Self is Empty, “advertising began developing a highly effective strategy: By identifying the product with an ‘imaginary state of being’ (Lears 1983, p. 19), the ads sought to allay the customer’s personal fears and feelings of inadequacy” (Cushman, 602). Cushman explains that advertisements tell individuals they are flawed and their product will cure the problem in the hopes that the audience will believe the campaign. I notice this strategy to be effective even on myself. There are plenty of products I never knew existed until I saw the commercial and decided I “had to have it.” A majority of deciding is based off of which advertisement is the most effective. For example when I choose which toilet paper to buy, I instantly remember the cute bear floating on the Charmin Ultra Soft toilet paper and assume that is the best brand of that product. Since watching television commercials about skin care, I have become obsessed with keeping my skin clean no matter how long my morning routine becomes. Merchants have learned how to get under our skin, and consumers have fallen guilty to their tricks.
Although consumerism takes an extremely important role in American society, I believe it is the individual’s responsibility to be able to recognize advertising tricks and make rational decisions on his or her purchases. It is not fair to blame bad investments on the advertisers because it is their job to see you the product. If “personal fulfillment is seen to reside within the purview of the individual, who is supposed to be self-sufficient and self-satisfied,” then the individual needs to be frugal with his or her purchases regarding which are necessary and which are merely for the enjoyment of spending money (Cushman, 603). With this prior knowledge, the consumer would be inclined to educate himself or herself before choosing which brand is the best.

The character Mary, played by Drew Barrymore, in He’s Just Not that Into You, says, “I had this guy leave me a voicemail at work, so I called him at home, and then he emailed me to my BlackBerry, and so I texted to his cell, and now you just have to go around checking all these different portals just to get rejected by seven different technologies. It’s exhausting.” This quote perfectly explains today’s technological world. We have house phones to make phone calls, cell phones to text and BBM (blackberry message), computers go on Facebook and Myspace and check our e-mails. In theory, with so many options, we are more connected than ever. We have the ability to almost immediately know about other people’s lives and plans because of internet’s publicity. Conversing with one another has become easy, too easy. “In fact, we now have to make an effort not to be in touch with other people” (5). We have so many methods and forms to keep in touch, but in truth, we are more disconnected than ever.

Facebook’s motto is “Stay Connected,” but whom are we staying connected to and what are we staying connected with by using it? The idea of Facebook is actually very funny if you think about it. What does it mean to have 962 Facebook friends? It depends on how selective we are – “he goes to UCSB”, “we’ve been best friends since we were nine years old,” “I have seen her somewhere,” “I think that’s Jesse’s friend,” “I met her last night,” or “whatever, he’s cute!” Facebook is constantly updated because people are always on it. Many people feel out of the loop if they are not aware of other people’s lives, creating an addictive attachment to refreshing the Facebook page on our computers or cell phones. We use Facebook to see pictures, statuses, get invitations, and read messages, but what happens when we are so involved in Facebook life that it interferes with our real life? Where do we draw the life? We often see a comment on a Facebook where a friend says, “I miss you! We need to catch up soon.” Why does that need to be a public display and why couldn’t that time be used to call the person up to actually catch up? Relationships become weaker because instead of talking about someone’s weekend, we just go on Facebook to see pictures from the weekend and then just “know.” Instead of asking how someone is doing, we read his or her Facebook status and then just “know.” “Being electronically connected all the time has actually made us less social and less-community oriented” (1). Wishing a happy birthday transitioned from seeing them physically and giving them birthday punches, to singing them “happy birthday” over the phone, to sending a personal text message, to publicly writing on someone’s wall on Facebook. The idea of meeting people has become superficial because people often base their interest level by judging how “hot” they look in their profile picture rather than a personal interaction they have.

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This page contains a single entry by Nick Tingle published on April 14, 2010 2:49 PM.

Entry 5: Your Notion of Consumer Society was the previous entry in this blog.

Blog Entry 7: Initial Reflections on Consumerism and Kids is the next entry in this blog.

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