In America, the economic system is a system that is mainly focused on providing and selling products and constantly improving them to continuously satisfy the consumer. However, because of this advantage that many producers have, this leads to an increasing amount of advertisements that constantly beg, induce, and often, take the most elaborate shapes of all kinds in order to inform the consumer to buy the product that the advertisement itself praises. These types of advertisements are able to capture the attention of millions of people in the United States, thanks to the various shapes that they’re able to take. This type of situation can create many types of social challenges, such as the need to “fit in with everybody” in keeping up with current trends that advertisements promote, “not be left behind”, and “keeping up with what’s popular”.
The effect of these advertisements are sometimes so severe that they can reach even the farthest and most remote places in the United States, such as billboards on long highways and large painted advertisements on old buildings. This causes a major problem to the welfare of consumers, which brings us to the main question of this issue: should we let consumerism be an intrusive factor of our lives, or should we focus more on the purer things in life (like nature, talking to friends, etc.) that already make us happier and more satisfied with being alive? The obvious and most logical answer to this question is that we need to focus more on enjoying life itself and not make ourselves susceptible to the mass shopping movement and constantly buying materials that would temporarily quench our thirst for being fulfilled and satisfied. Let’s take a more closer look at why this is the case and what we can do about it.
One of the things we should start doing is to create social movements/campaigns that will encourage people to spend more time outdoors and less time shopping in brick-and-mortar stores and online retailers. This can eventually benefit consumers in the most positive ways because of how popular they can become and how people will start becoming more mindful of how they spend their time and money. “Mindfulness may enhance one’s awareness of potentially accessible cognitive-behavioral processes underlying consumption that have become relatively automatic.” (Rosenberg, 108), says Erika Rosenberg, a professor at the UC Davis Center for Mind and Brain.
“It can make consumption more a matter of choice than of impulse clouded by the illusion of choice.” (Rosenberg, 108) “[Consumerism] plagues industrialized societies, countries that become indebted due to spending habits embedded in the national psyche and the upwardly social mobility in emerging economies alike.” says Pope Francis, Pope of the Vatican City. This further shows that being aware of how you’re spending your time and money and promoting that principle to others can greatly benefit you in choosing what is best for you when it comes to shopping or spending time outside.
Another initiative to consider is to encourage the government to re-enforce antitrust laws into the economy and corporate law. Antitrust laws are laws that limit the amount of competition that occurs between corporations and competitive businesses across the country. They can help reduce and restrict intense competition between corporations and also help ebb and subside the amount of tension between the race for “who can get the most amount of money with the most customers?”. However, these laws haven’t been in any active use recently, and this has caused a lot of chaos within the world of corporate competition. “[…] The market is not truly free – in effect, there is an ‘antitrust’ violation in the marketplace of ideas.” (Frantz, 73) says Gregory Frantz, a professor at the Department of Counseling and Human Development at George Washington University. “To achieve balance, the government must intervene.” (Frantz, 73)
Despite the vast amount of negative effects consumerism has on people, there are some people who can argue some points about how it helps them in some ways. But, these points aren’t always able to look at the big picture, which leads to them being overshadowed by how consumerism is actually affecting them in a negative way. For example, “it helps and encourages people to buy what they need and want.” This is true when you look at it at first glance, but when you dig deeper, it actually loses all of its logic. The more people are “satisfied” with their products, the more their level of demand for quality and satisfaction rises, which results in them endlessly scouring the aisles of their favorite stores to find that one perfect product they’ll never find, and thus, losing all of their money on finding that one perfect item and endlessly consuming “short-term satisfaction” products that will never fully quench their thirst for full satisfaction.
Another point people often make is that it helps the economy and supports businesses to grow and thrive. This is also true and makes sense when you look at it at first glance and not think about it too much, but if you start to put customers/consumers in the middle of the spotlight, the whole situation starts taking a different shape and it doesn’t seem to make any sense at all. As most people know, the main objectives in selling products to people and having a business in the first place is to make customers and other ordinary people feel satisfied and to help them with day-to-day problems that might stumble onto them over the course of the day. But, when businesses put themselves first and customers last in this situation, it puts consumers in a very dangerous and risky position, and thus, causes a very unbalanced marketplace where the desire of businesses outweighs those of consumers.
Consumerism, in general, has been a hidden ongoing issue in America for the past couple of decades and causes many problems to consumers every day, physiologically, psychologically, and financially. Its problems have caused much havoc to consumers and other ordinary people in terms of how it affects them in what they buy and their choices over what they buy, and such issues need to be fixed in order for consumers to have a say in and an understanding in what they buy and how they live their life with it in general.
Proposed solutions include promoting outdoor social campaigns that promote mindfulness and meaningful, real-life interactions with others and encouraging the government to re-enforce antitrust laws to limit the amount of competition that occurs between corporations. There might be some preconceptions that talk about how consumerism can be “beneficial”, but, ultimately, when thought about in a deep sense, these assumptions are proven wrong instantly. In general, there are many methods we can use to limit the amount of control consumerism has on our lives and to try to limit its presence as much as possible going forward into the future.