Hold on, what actually is Consumerism?
Consumerism is defined as the desire for non-essential goods and the want for luxury in aspects of life, in which we can consume. It feels like we, as a collective, have always been swayed towards seeing consumerism as a negative thing, something that can take over lives and evoke greed in a lot of people.
This need for non-essential, almost meaningless things, can make people act in negative ways and minimise their awareness of what is really important. From a young age, people like our parents or guardians, instil messages into our heads: to share and not be greedy, to get what you are given, to say ‘I would like’ instead of ‘I want’ – all things which relatively go hand in hand with having negative views on consumerism.
Popular culture, like films, often portray us to be almost zombie-like when we consume, and the themes of consumerism are present in more movies than you may think. An example of this is 2009 film, Zombieland. Have you seen it? If not, I’d highly recommend it. After reading this article, I challenge you to go and re-watch it and pay attention to the consumerist themes that are both subtly and obviously apparent throughout the plot.
"If one of the central themes of Zombieland is that people need other people — it is after all a movie where survivors come to realize they’re stronger together than separate — then that true friendship is only possible when they no longer subscribe to traditional views of consumerist culture." Joshua Tong
It is quite eye-opening and makes you have a real think about what you would do in a zombie-apocalypse scenario. Whether you would indulge in consumerist behaviour or whether survival would be at the forefront of your mind.
But what if we looked at Consumerism in a different way?
Maybe we should play devil’s advocate and consider why it may actually be a good thing that can impact people’s lives for the better.
There are positive responses to consumerism, for example, helping people to achieve their own true identities. Indulging in some aspects of this, such as wearing makeup, getting your hair done, etc has allowed people to freely express who they are. I’ll be honest, I had never really thought about consumerism in this sense until not too long ago, and it really opened my eyes to being neutral about how I, and other people might view this.
"I wear makeup mostly because it's fun to apply, fun to experiment with, and it's an art form that I feel I can express myself through. Initially I started wearing it because I was insecure, but I've come far past that point now. It does enhance my features and make me look good, but it also makes me feel good because it's something I like to do. It makes me happy. Wearing glittery eyeshadow or glossy lipstick is just another way for me to express my personality."
This is a quote from someone’s answer I found on a Quora question which discussed why people wear makeup. I found this response to be really heart-warming and honest. Makeup to me is just something I apply when I have somewhere to go, I don’t wear much at all – just the basics to enhance the features around my eyes. It makes me feel good, but I feel good without it as well. I don’t spend much on it either and haven’t spent a fortune consuming designer or luxury brands.
However, when you read an answer like this, where someone speaks whole-heartedly about how much joy makeup brings them to express their personality and how it is an enjoyable art form which they partake in, it starts to open your eyes on to the positive impact that indulging in consumerist behaviour can bring. The results of buying from makeup brands, whether they’re high-street or high-end, really can bring happiness and fulfilment to people and there is clear evidence to support this in the quotation above.
There are two sides to every story...
I know not everyone will agree, and people may argue that consumerism, focusing on the area of makeup, has comparatively led them to see themselves in a negative light. For instance, discussed on a previous Mindless Mag blog post, they talk of how makeup began to make them feel uncomfortable in their own skin.
"Before long, I began to recognise myself more with makeup on than I did without. I had become so dependent on foundation that when I took it off, I felt like an entirely different person that couldn’t do the same things I could without it."
I hear this point of view and respect it, however focusing on the positive impact that certain routes of consumerism can have on peoples mental health and well-being is something which I think should be highlighted and celebrated. It is a blessing when you are able to see the good in things, and as we've all presumably grown up to think and only see the negatives of consumption and over-consumption, I thought it would be interesting to turn the tables and have a look at why consumerism maybe isn't such a bad thing.