Consumer Culture is One Big Mousetrap – You're the Mouse
You better go check that blog you read, because that product you love just got made obsolete by another product with one more feature! Quick, buy it now before it's uncool!
I'm in the marketing industry. My entire function as a copywriter is to make you want things more than you want the corresponding amount of money. The entire industry is based off trying to get you excited enough to swipe your card – that's it.
Take a minute and just look down at the clothes you're wearing. Think about why you chose them. Maybe you're sitting there in a designer shirt, maybe you have an expensive watch, maybe you have classy leather shoes. Maybe you don't really care about clothes, but the computer you're typing on cost you thousands of dollars because “it has the highest possible specs”, or maybe you have the brand new iWhatever because it just plays music and makes phone calls SO much better than your old mp3 player and phone did before you got it. Whatever luxury it is that you spent money on in the last year, it's nearly guaranteed you did so because of marketing in one form or another.
Marketing isn't evil, though. Some people claim that the whole point of marketing is to make you dissatisfied with your life at the present moment – but it isn't. The whole point of marketing is to inspire you to think you'll be more satisfied in the future if you buy something; and sometimes you will.
Hell, our whole first world culture is built on marketing. If you didn't know that there were people with more/better/cooler stuff than you, you'd probably be pretty content to live at the level you are at now. After all, you evidently have internet access to be reading this, you probably have enough food most of the time, and maybe you're lucky enough to have a friend or two. What more do you need?
Well, obviously a lot more. You need a fast car, a flashy boat, expensive jewellery, cool music, trendy clothes, social status, a beautiful wife/girlfriend/husband/boyfriend as well as yearly holidays, fat bonuses and maybe a big house in a wealthy neighbourhood. This whole “perfect lifestyle” you aspire to have is a marketing construction. You've had it fed to you since you were little; it's reinforced by celebrity news, by advertising and by word-of-mouth.
In fact, every purchasing choice you make is because of marketing. The toothpaste you buy, the deodorant you use, everything in your fridge; they've all been sold to you. You buy a certain brand over the generic one because of an assumed increase in quality, and in return you pay a premium.
All of this is a trap. It's not a malicious trap. It's not a trap designed to keep you poor for the rest of your life, or designed to make you hate your present circumstances. No, the trap is more akin to the carrot dangling in front of the donkey's nose.
See, money represents value. When you're paid for something you do it's because someone else benefited from it. When you exchange money for a product, you're assuming you will benefit from it, too. By perpetuating a system of constant 'want' marketers have fuelled your ambitions – they make you crave money. The only way for you to legally get more money to satisfy these new desires is to become a more valuable member of society – you have to contribute more benefits to more people.
By keeping you constantly wanting more and more things marketers play off the reward pathways in your brain and rope you in to a lifelong quest to give more back to society. It's not a bad thing. It's probably not a great thing either (it's probably mostly to blame for all those girls with self-esteem issues because they don't look like a perfectly photoshopped Miss Universe), but next time you're shopping stop and wonder why exactly it is you want to pay three times as much for butter just because it comes in a prettier container to the generic brand. Then apply that way of thinking to everything.
You may just find you need less to be happy than you'd expect.