Extreme Consumerism

Some of the most extreme manifestations of consumerism are:

1. Bucket lists. Life as measured by acts of conspicuous consumption. Consuming “experiences” is as consumerist as buying shoes.

2. Tinder and Co. Consuming people as clumps of meat and nothing else.

3. Subscription boxes. Buying things without even knowing what they are.

4. Decluttering craze. Getting rid of stuff to buy more stuff.

5. Gender fluidity. Pretending that one body is several to buy stuff for all of them.

Feel free to add to the list.

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41 thoughts on “Extreme Consumerism”

      1. He was one of the greatest american stand-up comedians. And I’m generally not a big fan of stand-up comedy.
        Anyway, isn’t decluttering supposed to be the opposite of consumerism? Getting rid of unnecessary stuff and learning to live in a simpler way?

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        1. But here’s the thing: decluttering is an industry. It presumes you have the ability to buy again whatever you toss or give away. If you look at the after pictures, the things are always displayed like they are in an expensive store; sparse, less than half full. Plus many organizational how-tos often recommend products to better compartmentalize your stuff. Custom cabinets are a big part of decluttering.

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          1. Zygmunt Bauman wrote very well on how the greatest pleasure of a consumer is not to acquire but to discard. Because the act of discarding creates an excuse to buy more.

            The lady who created the whole decluttering movement sold tons of copies of her book. Because everything begins and ends with buying.

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            1. My experience with the KonMari method was the opposite – even three years on it has dramatically reduced my spending and consumption. Its philosophy is similar to advice I read here on this blog, years ago: it’s better to own one pair of nice underwear and wash it in the sink each night than to own a dozen ragged, depressing pairs.

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              1. An intelligent person who is ready for change will draw resources for change out of anything. I suspect, though, that you are a bit exceptional in this regard.

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              2. Possibly, but the experience of living in a space that contains only objects that are beautiful or useful is very profound. I grew up with hoarders though, so the idea that this was even possible was quite new to me.

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              3. See, I’m the opposite. I’m a bit of a hoarder now because I grew up in a family where everything was discarded and eliminated before it could run its course. No small useless trinkets that were valuable to you because of the memories attached to them was allowed.

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  1. I feel a lot of attention devoted to ‘self-care’ these days is nothing but mindless consumption. Consumerism hiding behind the language of empowerment, etc.

    Once you label something ‘self-care’, it magically turns from a desire into a necessity. Which obviously cannot be questioned.

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    1. I have a much better example of book-related consumerism. I saw an ad on FB yesterday that invited me to buy a pin “to celebrate your love of reading.” As if love of reading necessitated some special accoutrements.

      Consumerism was born together with capitalism. There are works of literature denouncing consumerism that date back to the 18th century. So it’s older than this country for sure. And was not invented here.

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  2. The popularity of daily vloggers!

    They are people who make a living filming even their most mundane experiences and posting them on YouTube. Many have high subscriber rates. They make money through YouTube monetization of their videos, affiliate deals with various sellers, and through actual endorsement deals.

    Tied to this would be the popularity of “haul” videos in which people show off the stuff they buy, including groceries and random items from Target.

    I guess YouTube (and be extension social media, in general) are direct results of consumerism, you avail yourself to advertisers and, in return, receive an endless stream of information on what to buy and how to buy it from your social media platform…these thoughts may be a direct offshoot of your first point, though.


    https://polldaddy.com/js/rating/rating.js

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  3. Another example. The obsession with the right gear that I’ve seen here. I grew up in India, and the idea was that when you’re a beginner in any activity, say cricket, you start with a cheap bat, even if you can afford a more expensive one. As you get better, you earn better equipment. Not so much here. You start with the best gear that you can afford.

    Also, I’ve noticed that part of the excitement of starting something new is the possibility of buying new stuff. “I’m gonna look so cute in snowboarding clothes, yay!” I was looking at some hiking blogs the other day that had info about trails in my area. The checklist for gear was insane. That blog managed to make the simple act of walking intimidating for me.

    Simple hobbies get so technical here.

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    1. Wait until you decide to have a child. I remember reading these endless lists titled “Are You Ready For Your Birthing Experience???” with all kinds of shit you’ll need for the hospital. And the truth is that you don’t need any of it. We came literally with nothing at all because, in our situation, buying was very far down on our list of concerns, and everything was provided. The whole thing with “this is the list of music and candles for your birthing experience” was hardcore. And the hospital even asked us, in a very resigned way, if we were bringing our own gear. And we were like, hey, look in the chart. All we want from this “experience” is a live baby. Do we look like we need aromatherapy in the hospital ward?

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      1. And hey, I understand that people without our history have more room in their heads to think of buying at this time in their lives. I don’t begrudge them the joy. It’s just that no matter how easy the birth, it’s still a very intense thing and one has a lot more to think about than the color of underwear just before and right after and what it must symbolize.

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  4. Weddings.

    Having them, being in them, attending them. Anything outside of JoP situation tends to be super consumerist. You are supposed to throw all thoughts of budgets and reasonability out of the window because it’s your special day or someone else’s special day. And many people get divorced or remarried so it’s not even a one time thing or one day, it’s several parties. Everyone spends to be super individual but I can predict what people are going to do in their “unique” wedding. If it’s not about you it’s about what your in-laws and family wants so they go on some pent up orgy of spending.

    LMAO.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. There are also in-laws who resent you for having a wedding because they want you to spend the money on them. These are the ones who want to consume you directly without the mediation of a wedding.

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  5. “Household wiretap, replenish the tape!”
    Replenishing household and personal consumables online and having each item arrive in a separate box.
    The waste, from origin to garbage can, is incredible.
    Gigantic inventories rolling up and down America’s highways and streets.

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  6. This might not be popular here, but… a lot of immigration….

    Large amounts of immigration are not caused by people fleeing oppression or even poverty (or emotional alienation) but by the basic desire (inculcated in virtually every medium) to consume more and do so more conspicuously.

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    1. Of course, that’s the entire immigration from Eastern Europe to anywhere else. Curiously, the 1,5 million internal refugees in Ukraine who are fleeing from the war all got resettled internally. So it’s like Ukrainians don’t emigrate unless it’s to consume more.

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    2. I’m really interested to hear what you can consume more of and more conspicuously in Poland than the US.

      Americans are interested in high tech consumer goods and medical care but they are uninterested in spending on the infrastructure necessary to educate Americans with these credentials/training or spending the money to pay these Americans (especially outside of big cities.) Immigration definitely is driven by extreme consumerism.

      Americans are uninterested in actually paying American labor prices to harvest crops so immigrants (illegal or not) allow Americans to eat lots of food and fatten themselves for much cheaper. Coming from a place where a song about wealth and plenty invokes dairy products to growing up in a place where dairy products are just lunch on Tuesday is rather remarkable. But I hardly think people immigrate for the chance to have a nice hot shower instead of waiting for water to heat up in a tank and then take a bucket bath. 🙂

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  7. The digitization of media (video games, movies, music, etc). The media companies are steadily chipping away at the entire concept of ownership, and are moving to systems where consumers rent, rather than own their products.

    The “great deals” on Steam and the XBOX marketplace only seem amazing because you don’t see the game cartridges sitting around collecting dust because if you had to go to the store and purchase a physical product and actually think about where you would keep it and if you would play it, you probably wouldn’t bother. And having everything stored digitally stops you from having to worry about the time physical commitment of a 10,000 book library, or record or video game collection. Of course, you also cannot lend or sell these items to anyone else.

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    1. “And having everything stored digitally stops you from having to worry about the time physical commitment of a 10,000 book library, or record or video game collection.”

      Great, great point.

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    2. Great point. I almost completely stopped buying books online after Klara was born because I want her to grow up surrounded by books. And I can’t just surround her with my Kindle.

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  8. Unboxing videos – there is this whole genre of videos of people taking things (mostly electronic gadgets) out of the box, playing around with them and figuring out how to use them. I really don’t understand why anyone would want to watch these types of videos, but there are tons of them.

    But I have to admit that we’ve had a couple of subscription boxes that have been fun. One was for snack items (chocolate, candy, chips, etc.) from a different country each month – the country is always a surprise when you open the box and it’s been interesting to try lots of unusual things. We also had one for cocktails for a few months that sent a box with mixers and instructions for fancy/unusual cocktails.

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      1. We got a six month subscription as a Christmas gift. We’ve gotten four so far and there have been interesting things in all of them. The one from Colombia was the best and it’s actually gotten me to be a little curios about visiting Colombia someday.

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    1. There’s also the whole media obsession with miracle foods and the “lost” foods of our ancestors – kale, quinoa, acai berries, blueberries, salmon, spinach, chia seeds, dark chocolate, coconut oil, etc. etc. etc.

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  9. Your link on the Ingraham boycott made me think of it, but boycotts and charity linked with purchasing. Buying pink to “support” breast cancer awareness, buying local rather than from Wal-Mart, “locally sourced” foods etc, an ethical existence as something to buy and consume and display rather than to diligently strive towards

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    1. Oh yes. Like that time when everybody rushed to buy red-top sneakers because a politician made a great pro-reproductive rights speech while wearing them. The sneakers were crazy expensive. It would have made much more sense to donate the money to local organizations providing reproductive support services but. . .

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