Consumerism has today blurred the line between the need and the want.

In this modern world, developed and developing nations have access to products and services that have truly changed society. From a smartphone to a television to the items we take as necessities today like a refrigerator. It can feel like the whole world is now looking to, what’s next?

A mentality based around buying that circulates everywhere. This idea is known as consumerism, an idea that buying items fulfils a purpose rather than just what’s needed.

Consumerism is the belief that personal well-being and happiness depends to a very large extent on the level of personal consumption, particularly on the purchase of material goods. The idea is not simply that well-being depends upon a standard of living above some threshold, but that at the center of happiness is consumption and material possessions.

A consumerist society is one in which people devote a great deal of time, energy, resources and thought to “consuming”. The general view of life in a consumerist society is consumption is good, and more consumption is even better.

How was it before?

Humanity always desires more. Whether it be power, wealth, property or just influence. Humans have always wanted more. This concept is not new. Even in ancient times, some would have far more than others, usually based on positions in the society. As the society developed, the wealthy began to exhibit their wealth with possessions, fancy clothes, luxurious houses, jewellery and so on. This was reserved for the top tier of the society until just a

This was reserved for the top tier of the society until just a century ago when the concept of mass production allowed even unskilled workers to produce high-quality products in bulk. The price of these goods became cheaper which gave access to middle class to purchase items which once were considered out of reach. These new items developed a new mindset amongst both the middle class and the upper class alike- ‘To Always Acquire More’.

Before the expansion of consumerism, goods were purchased for a specific intent. Whether this was to make work easier or a necessity to live, goods were purchased when needed and rarely more.

How does it look like now?

As consumerism hit the mainstream, people desired need goods constantly. This concept was greatly explored by sociologist Thorstein Veblen. He created the idea of ‘Conspicuous Consumption’. Conspicuous Consumption is the acquisition of expensive goods created the perception of wealth and success. A fancy car, a new expensive watch, an air conditioner and more showed off that the owner must be well-off. Clothes were not the only way to determine the success of a stranger, now their possessions did all the talking. As more people desire to be admired for possessions and the perception of success that came with it, they want to buy more.

Wait, does that makes marketing teams’ jobs easier? Now they can market their products to expanding middle class making non-essential items seem like a must. This is where the line between the need and the want begins to blur.

Now, the consumerism has become so ingrained in the human consciousness that it becomes hard to escape. As time went on, media and arts became commercialized using advertisements. Advertisements of today, promote not simply specific products, but also a vision of “the good life” and what it takes to be happy. People are constantly bombarded with advertisements urging them to buy things. Ever wondered the total number of advertisements you have seen in a year. The figure can rise up to one hundred thousand advertisements spread over television, radio, bill boards, mobile, print media etc.

Now, more brands become recognizable and developed an image as more products become part of common knowledge, it made the idea of owning that product even more appealing. Today, marketing budgets surpass the actual production of the product.

Is consumerism all that bad?

Think about this, without consumerism, companies would lose a drive to compete with not just other companies but the consumers’ interests. Sometimes this involves making a better product and sometimes it can allow a small creative mind to sell a product without everybody saying “Why do I need this?”.

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