To keep up with the latest trends, my best friend has always been a big fan of shopping, from buying expensive, stylish handbags to making online orders on designer watches and beauty products. For instance, I could not believe my eyes when she once purchased a lipstick worth $50. Personally, I kept wondering what influences her to do the impulse buying, because I thought that she wastes a lot of money on unimportant things as she could just do fine with average priced commodities, which could still serve the purpose. Rather I thought, one should just be satisfied if they have access to essential needs like food, shelter, and clothing. However, my opinion was recently challenged this semester when I decided to join a class on Introduction to Design Theories and Culture. The subject, which mainly revolves around the concept of consumerism and its relevance in todays society, offered me great insight on the topic matter as it explores extensively on the relationship between culture, design, and theories. As of today, I have a better understanding on why some people prefer certain brands of commodities and trendy lifestyles. Additionally, I have learned on the several factors that influence consumerism such as design and commoditization.
First, I got familiarized with the consumerism concept, which is a concept that seeks to explain the rapid change in the consumption patterns among consumers. As such, it is the belief that personal well-being and happiness depends to a considerable extent on the level of individual consumption, particularly on the purchase of material goods. Hence, the theory supports that increasing the use of products is economically desirable. As a result, it has led to the high production of mobile devices, the wide range of food and beverages, as well as increased need for individuals to tour different parts of the continent. In that case, I guess that is why some people say that money can buy happiness since people feel that a part of their self can be attributed to an object, for they have the notion that the goods define their status in the society.
Additionally, the lecture on the Society of Consumers commenced by echoing Zygmunt Bauman sentiments that, the society of consumers stands for a peculiar set of existential conditions under which the probability is high that most men and women will embrace the consumerist [culture] rather than any other culture, and that most of the time they will obey its precepts to the best of their ability. In essence, Bauman believes that people are most likely to continue purchasing goods as long as certain factors exist in the society, the main force being commoditization. That is, a consumerist society is one in which people devote a great deal of time, energy, resources, and thought to consuming, as they believe that consumption is right and that economic stability is key to the efficiency of the world state. Moreover, some researchers feel that consumerism is another way for the World State to control its citizens since most people consume so much because of the conditioning they receive at a young age; that more consumption is a means of attaining personal happiness.
Important to note, I learned that design and commoditization significantly enhance consumerism. With the help of the group studies formed in class, we explored these elements. First, I discovered that advertising in capitalist societies impacts a lot of the decisions people make while purchasing goods. In as much as it is a necessary constituent in the marketing scheme of commercial products, it affects the human mind. That is, commercials portray goods as essential items that are meant secure a persons social distinctiveness thus creating a need for luxury goods. For example, most high profile celebrities are compelled to wear select designer products from Gucci, Calvin Klein or even Jimmy Choo, and as such, their personality ends up being defined by material things rather than their behaviors, a scenario that depicts the concept of commoditization. These findings were backed up by an article my group came across titled, top ten things Americans waste money on, which stated that individuals spend almost 15% of their household income on things they do not merely want. Some items include alcohol, fees, and admissions, pets, gifts, sound equipment et al.
Reflecting on Baumans thoughts regarding the same, he states, The crucial, perhaps the decisive purpose of consumption in the society of consumers is not the satisfaction of needs, desire and wants, but the commoditization or recommoditization of the consumer: raising the status of consumers to that of sellable commodities. Bauman implies that the way a person is perceived in the society is mostly reliant on his or her consumption acts. For example, in the modern world, when one does not engage in international travels but instead remains fixed in one locality, many perceive it as a sign of social deprivation. Such a notion was challenged by Bauman who compared the lifestyles of a tourist versus that of a vagabond. On one side the tourist is regarded as the mobile elite and can decide to travel to whenever they like, while on the other hand the vagabond is looked down upon as he cannot move at his own will, but rather accept the fate of nature.
My uncertainty on the effects of consumerism on culture was tackled in the other class sessions. First, I learned that consumerism has led to the homogenization of a group of people, especially in the western countries. In America, consumerism has caused the community to replace traditions and old values for an American way of life. As in, the American standard of living obsessively promotes excessive consumerism, where a majority of individuals globally aspire to attain their lifestyle. For instance, the world market has recently been dominated by the rise of fast food chains, of which I am guilty of flowing with this trend. As a result, it has made people from different denominations neglect, and even some forget about their cultural cuisines, a habit which is gaining momentum in the young ones. Another effect I learned is that consumerism has over time destroyed the sense of individualism in people. This factor emanates from the fact that nowadays people only want to buy from a popular brand, and as a consequence, they end up buying from one or two brands instead of buying from a variety of sellers. Consequently, it impacts smaller companies who find it difficult to compete in such a market.
In conclusion, the study on consumerism has been very insightful, with a significant implication learned that there is room to rectify the practices of the consumerism belief. That is, I as a consumer hold power to create change, by choosing to abide by my desires and preferences. For that reason, we can decide what we want to buy, and from whom we want to purchase the goods from. As a result, product promoters and businesses will slowly change their conduct, hence bringing change to the global market. Moreover, the study has taught me that we are all responsible for our happiness, and thus, it is upon us to do what indeed makes us happy, and not follow someone elses definition of happiness. For that matter, I feel very encouraged and therefore I will not shy from pursuing my dream career in being a chef. I choose life.
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