Brain Ramble: Consumerism

photo credit: Ingrid Richter
photo credit: Ingrid Richter

I am frustratingly fascinated with consumerism, and how it impacts my life in two very different ways: in theory and in practice. As a communications student, consumerism lends itself to many topics, whether you’re studying the political economy of labour, new media consumption, or pop culture. Arguably, the most enjoyable aspect of studying consumerism is that it relates so closely to everyday life, and is something all of us (except perhaps the world’s last hermit) experience and must negotiate our relationship with. While it is easy to gaze down from this pedestal of theory, laughing at the masses who conform to every to arbitrary trend and consume with frequent turnover in the open-ended pursuit of “cool” (for further discussion read: Heath, J. And Potter, A. (2004). “From Status Seeking to Coolhunting,” in The Rebel Sell. Toronto: HarperPerennial, pp.188-220).

), it is only moments before you step up from your desk chair (pedestal) and start worshiping consumption like everyone else.

lets go shopping
photo credit: James Vaughan

If I were to ask you why you are at all concerned with fashion trends, and why you buy new clothes (other than absolute necessity), what would you say? Tell me in the comments!

Does your answer fall under the general reasoning that it is to remain cool, and to avoid negative perception from others? That’s ok, me too. A reason consumption often feels as natural as the changing of the seasons, is because ever since goods could be mass produced (therefore increasing choice and decreasing cost), people were allowed to indulge in frivolity and did so. This, combined with an engrained consumer culture that normalizes and legitimizes consumption, makes the practice feel so natural.

iphone photo
photo credit: Don DeBold

I think that it’s easy to criticize trends in consumption, until you subscribe to one, at which point you defend it fervently. For example, I don’t have a smartphone so I don’t buy colourful cases for it. The practice of owning multiple cases for fashion strikes me as absurd and wasteful, until I examine all the fashion categories I do subscribe to (clothing, decor, stationary) and am reminded of how easy it is to get lulled into the feeling that consumption is ok – even good and healthy.

Following the fashion blog College Fashion is my guilty pleasure. Even though scrolling through this website is just a type of window shopping, for me the act still carries guilt because I am participating in, and reaffirming this wasteful cultural obsession.

Do you ever think about these things? Do these thoughts ever curb your consumption? Tell me in the comments!

photo credit: Courtney "CoCo" Mault
photo credit: Courtney “CoCo” Mault



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