Consumerism's Grasp on Society

Consumerism has begun to take over society to the extent where people consume more then they need, and can use. Research conducted by Greenpeace showed over a third of consumers, in various parts of the world, believe they own more than what they need. The unnecessary consumption of clothes reaches 60% in Germany and China, whilst reaching 68% in Hong Kong. Compared to shoes, bags, and accessories, the biggest culprit of over consumption is clothes, with over 50% of people believing they own too much.


Societies members consuming items in a major Shopping Mall
Consumers in a Shopping Mall


What drives excessive consumerism?


Around a third of people consume more than what they can afford, peaking at almost 50% in China, but why is that?


Promotions are the main drive for overspending and over buying. Due to companies' effective advertisements, and smart pricing, Italy's main driver is promotions, leading to 72% of consumerism in the country.


Social media has a present impact in Hong Kong and China, with e-commerce magnifying the fashion industry. In China, mobile phones are used for daily business more than anywhere else in the world. The result is social media advertisement being a dominant factor, causing the need for over consumption.


Content marketer for Pay Per click (PPC) Protect Marketing, Sam Carr, shared insights into 21st century advertising. In 2022 paid search ads, video ads in YouTube, social media adds, streaming adds, digital banners, and in-game ads are all popular forms of advertisement, mostly all of which are accessible on mobile phones, and social media platforms.

Mobile access to social media websites
Social media

Limited edition goods, and celebrity inspirations are less influential, accounting for less than a third in most places. Celebrity influence sits as low as 5% in Germany. Through all the purchases and influences, can people be happy with possessions?


Less is more


The obvious reason to restrain from consumption is to have a better life. Relationships are more fulfilling than objects, and to live a simple life, a relationship will be easier to maintain, and develop with less material distractions. Postconsumers take on relationships is that,

"The strongest relationships are based on shared goals and values, and the deeper the focus on material is, the less your relationship will be satisfying other needs".

Upon choosing less items, the appreciation for what you have increases, and the selectivity of what is consumed increases. Happiness with each other is more fulfilling than happiness with material, as there will always be new consuming opportunities to chase. There is risk of living a life of chasing happiness, and falling short.




Upon purchasing less, from watching less advertisements on social media or promotions, the house is tidier, having only essentials that are needed. Money is saved and can be spent on higher quality items. Avoiding advertisements results in a life that is lived, rather than one that is watched, and spent chasing material.


Exposure of ads


More advertising means companies have a greater chance of reaching potential customers. Jay - Walker Smith, president of the marketing firm Yankelovich, claims that

"The average person is exposed to 5,000 ads per day".

Marketing expert Ron Marshall conducted research to test this. Counting every advert he heard, and saw within his home, he counted 487 advertisements before he finished breakfast. He stopped the research here, as he realised J. Smiths figures were becoming more valid.

The attractive promotion signs
Promotion on goods

However, we do not take notice of thousands of ads a day. Ron Marshal sates

"Less than 100 of them make it past our "attention wall" each day".

Although 100 is minor compared to thousands, it is still a high number of potential objects to buy, just because we have been exposed to them.


Why break free from consumerism?


To consume is to live, but many cannot afford to consume with the income they have. People compete to possess objects that we see celebrities have on tv, to join trends, and to keep up with the latest fashion. Companies provide us with offers that are appealing to us, compelling us to buy these deals of things that we do not really want, or need in our lives.


As stated, many people have too many items. Items that we do not value enough to wear, or use continuously. The lack of love causes more purchases of items we like slightly more, ones which eventually meet the same fate. Making smarter choices on objects that we frequently need will reduce needless consumerism.

The window in which society advertises objects
TV to receive advertisement


How to break free from consumerism


The main way to break free from consumerism is through minor changes in mindsets, and attitude towards advertisements.

A way to do this involves developing a travelling mind, purchasing necessities to live, rather than only what you want. The change of mindset will aid to ignore the advertisement we see every day, and the urge to seek them out.

  • Turning off the television can be the most effective methods of reducing exposure.

If we are not shown the thousands of products available to buy, or what celebrities possess, then we are less likely to chase them.

  • Examining the needs can help decipher what objects are needed, and what objects are wanted.

Certain Items will become more appealing to us, rather than all of them. We would be making purchases based on items that that we need, not want. This is similar to the travel light process.