The problem with consumerism
Everywhere we look around, we are surrounded by “products”. 50 % discount or 20 %
discount we want them all. But, have we ever stopped and asked ourselves: “Do I really need
it”? Not many people do that. All of us are somewhere guilty of encouraging consumerism in
our society. Even though many people argue that consumerism helps to drive the economy of
a country, others remain unconvinced.
Consumerism is a social and economic belief that encourages the acquisition of goods and
services. The purchased goods often exceed the buying capacity of the customer. But
consumerism aims not to encourage the customers to buy the products they need but to make
them spend their money. In economics, consumerism refers to economic policies that
facilitate consumption. Usually, in a consumerist society, people are often overwhelmed with
advertisements, brands, discounts, offers, sales, launches, etc. These are used to stimulate
customers into buying services and goods constantly. This comes at the expense of investing
our savings which are meant for future purposes.
Consumerism grew in popularity with capitalism during the 16th century in Europe. It
especially intensified in the 18th century because of the growth of the middle class. This
middle-class population embraced the idea of the consumption of luxury goods and services.
As economies grew, most government policies turned to consumerism to make profits.
Colonialism is also regarded as one of the crucial drivers of consumerism. To fulfill their
ventures, colonialists needed money. They had the supply of goods but they needed a market
to sell them. Thus, it became necessary to create demands for products to sell and earn money
The industrial revolution during this era also increased the number of products that customers
could purchase. Thus, buying and selling became a part of life. The consumerist culture is
quite prevalent today. Customers often buy products to look fashionable and trendy. The hunt
for better products is never-ending. This can be observed in both developing and developed
countries. Mass media does a good job of playing with the psychology of customers.
Newspapers and television are full of advertisements. They constantly remind you of the
products you “should buy” and that too immediately.
The increased demand for goods has led to an increase in the number of factories producing
these goods. This puts pressure on our environment and damages it. The setting up of
factories requires deforestation in many areas and is accompanied by a rise in land use.
Pollutants released from factories also cause air and water pollution. All these factors
contribute to climate change which is becoming an alarming situation with every passing
day. Apart from industries, the demand for water resources for agricultural purposes has
also increased in the past decade. This leads to depletion of the groundwater. Also, most of
the products we consume use plastic packaging or are made up of plastics. This has increased
the number of plastic wastes we are disposing of in our environment. Plastic waste
accumulates and stays in nature for a long time and has detrimental effects on marine life.
Consumerism also breeds global inequality. The increasing consumption of luxury goods by
the rich expands the existing economic divide between rich and poor. Many people suggest
that this money could be put to better use. Experts estimate that around $6 billion would be
sufficient to provide basic education to everyone. This amount is comparatively lower than
the $11 billion spent on ice cream by Europeans every year. Consumerism not only affects
the global economy and our planet, but it can also harm us as an individual. Consumerism is
often linked with increasing debts in people who have the habit of overspending. This can
cause serious mental health problems in people who are unable to afford a decent life because
of their debts. Some people are addicted to social media and in an attempt to imitate someone
else’s life, they purchase things that they cannot afford. Consumerism also forces people to
hustle more so that they can buy costly products.
People are willing to borrow money from others to purchase luxury cars or go on exotic
vacations. They spend less time with their loved ones and more time on hoarding stuff they
will probably never use. This obsession with materialism can compromise our ability to form
fruitful relations with others. This prevents us from living a socially and mentally healthy life.
So, the next time you decide to purchase something new, ask yourself if you really need it or
are you being “made to believe” that you need the product to be happy. Being conscious
while spending money will prove to be beneficial in the long run.