All I Want For Chri$tma$ is.....Everything

December 19, 2011

Torah Kachur

Christmas is only a week away and whether you are desperately seeking out an angry birds plush toy or a Kindle Fire you are bound to be stressed to the max.  Rampant consumerism fuels our yuletide cheer with the quest to consume bigger and better things.  But what does it say about us that our culture has a massive urge to consume useless shit?


            I Shop therefore I am.


Do you really need that Pocahontas Disney Princess doll?  Is it really a life or death situation of you don't get that new Xbox?  For some of us, it might actually feel like the world will end if we don't fill our lives with stuff.  In The Psychology of Consumerism, author David Carter outlines two different types of consumers:


Instrinsically motivated - these are people who accept themselves for who they are, they gain this acceptance by affiliation and community.....which explains hippies.


Extrinsically motivated - let's face it, this is most of us.  We are motivated by financial gain, appearance, social status, thinness, hairlessness, hairyness, fitness, nice smiles, no grey hair... and the list goes on.  These are those of us who seek acceptance by something or someone outside of themselves.


Not surprisingly, studies have shown that those that are intrinsically motivated have the highest rated happiness and are also the lowest consumers.  They aren't victims to the marketing machines of advertising everywhere we look from egg cartons to bathroom stalls.  Usually, these intrinsically motivated types of people have better relationships and report less mood swings - they also probably don't have TV or are lying.


The extrinically motivated have a driving need to consume something better or something more and this usually stems from insecurity - both financial and emotional.  Quite simply, those that doubt themselves buy the most and those with the least want the most.  43% of American households spend more than they earn and carry over $8000 in credit card debt and yet perceived happiness has been on a drastic decline for decades.  The quest to have more to feel better is simply not working.


The entire Western economy revolves around spending more and more money to keep up with the Jones' and the amount of advertising we are exposed to everywhere we look just taxes our self control.  Our willpower can only withstand so much before we just have to have that snuggy or slap chop.  Now, we don't even have to go to the store to submit to our temptations, all we have to do is click a mouse button and we could be spending $2000 on that new 3D TV before we even stop to think if we want it.


But we have no choice in the matter, our loved ones are expecting Christmas gifts that have a pricetag equal to our perceived love of them.  We have all been victimized by the marketing machine of the industrialized world.  Dare to rebel against it and you risk losing face with your friends and family.  


For all those on my list, your present is my presence...that or a lump of coal.


Christmas Consumerism Psychology



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