Friday, 9 March 2012

More than a Logo

In my last post, I discussed purchasing products based on other people’s opinions instead of my own. One example would be my handbag. In all reality, a purse is something that holds all of the things I don’t feel like shoving in my pocket and will, at some point, end up on a bar bathroom floor. By dropping a week’s paycheck to sport a sexy logo, I’m only fulfilling my need for acceptance while providing a company with free advertising wherever I go. When in doubt, never carry a bag that’s worth more than the sum total of your checking account. That goes for both sexes; I don’t judge.

We buy products as a way to assert our individuality. My clothes, as a part of my personal appearance, say something about me. However, even as we attempt to demonstrate our individuality we buy popular brands in an effort to blend in with the crowd. Advertisers know this and as a result we have been conditioned to believe that the right clothes, the latest electronics, and the sexiest car will make us happy and successful, and why shouldn’t we be happy?

We live in an age of endless possibility with access to an almost unimaginable variety of products. We can satisfy our every desire without even leaving the house in most cases, thanks to Internet shopping and overnight delivery. Luckily, we’ll have plenty of space to store our new purchases as NPR reported in 2006 that the average square footage of an American home had more than doubled since the 1950’s. In this land of plenty and opportunity, it would be natural to assume that we have achieved a level of happiness unparalleled in human history. Frustratingly, we instead find that “in countries which boast the highest levels of material comfort, suffering is everywhere” (Heaversedge and Halliwell 2).

Thanks to a barrage of advertisements we have become convinced that these products hold the key not only to our happiness, but to our self-actualization. “By setting up idealized stereotypes, advertisements foster greed, status envy, anxiety, health fears, and at root, a sense of dissatisfaction and inadequacy” (Kaza 28). The more we despair, the more we hear the whispering assurances: Don’t worry! For the low, low price of $29.95, those negative feelings can disappear and you can even put it on your credit card.

Once we buy these products we may feel an initial rush of pleasure, but the positive emotions are quickly abated. The law of diminishing returns rears its ugly head while we rationalize that if one designer bag will not bring us happiness, perhaps two will. Newer, bigger, and more become the most common adjectives in our quest for happiness. However, the simple truth is that we will never find happiness in products because these products can never be enough.

Instead of looking for more materials to fulfill that void, we need to turn inward. As simple as examining our own motivations and desires may sound, this can be a profoundly difficult experience. No one wants to acknowledge that a piece of their self worth may be based on material possessions and outside opinions. However, until we recognize that we have value beyond our possessions, we will never achieve the peace we deserve.

Adler, Margot. "Behind the Ever-Expanding American Dream Home." Your Money. National Public Radio, 04 Jul 2006.

Heaversedge, Jonty, and Ed Halliwell. The Mindful Manifesto. London, UK: Hay House Ltd., 2010. Print.

Kaza, Stephanie. "Overcoming the Grip of Consumerism." Buddhist - Christian Studies 20 (2000): 23-42.

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