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Consumerism- Not such a modern phenomenon after all

Claire Garland investigates our obsession with possessions

I’ve recently been working on one (of many) essays on a historical
topic that is surprisingly close to something we’re all very familiar
very familiar with- consumerism. I’ve been sitting at my laptop reading
various sources, thinking to myself  how daft some of these ‘olde worlde’
consumers were for spending all their money on bits and bobs just
because somebody told them it was fashionable, when I realised how
familiar the mistake sounded. Aren’t we all a little bit guilty of mindlessly
buying stuff because we’re told we just have to have it?

We’re constantly bombarded with adverts on the TV, internet and in
magazines, telling us we simply must buy whatever it is that the great
advertising companies are currently trying to sell. You need a faster car
(although with a maximum speed limit of seventy in England, I’m pretty
sure that my one litre Micra will suffice thank you); you need a mobile
phone that takes pictures, lets you update Facebook wherever you are,
sings, dances and speaks three different languages; you need a face cream
that will make you look ten years younger; and a deodorant that will help you
find you love (or at least a one night stand according to the ‘Lynx Effect.’)
Other advertising ploys involve the assumption that Coca Cola will make you so
happy you’ll walk down the street singing and random strangers will join in
with you, KFC will make your Friday night in seem less pathetic and Emporio
Armani boxershorts will make you look like David Beckham in your undies. Oh,
and let’s not forget the iPhone, your social life will simply fall off the
radar if you don’t have one. However ridiculous this all sounds, we’ve all
fallen for it at some point.

With this sudden epiphany I realised that actually, despite the time gap
of several hundred  years, us consumers of today aren’t that different
different from those consumers of old. I know I’m not only speaking for myself
when I guiltily think of all the money I’ve wasted on rubbish that I’ve used
once or twice, grown bored of and discarded under my bed or thrown to the back
of my wardrobe. Why are we all so obsessed with buying all this junk? Why do we
think that these items are somehow going to save us from being single, getting
older, or spending a Friday night at home? Isn’t it all just a bit
materialistic? Whether it’s clothes, shoes, make up, technology, cars, or food,
we all seem to be obsessed with buying it and usually, it has a specific brand
attached. We are literally consuming what the advertisers throw at us, even if
we don’t realise it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not quite ready to stop my Monday morning coffee
stop-off at Starbucks just yet, and I won’t be getting rid of my uber-fast laptop
or miracle concealer anytime soon, but shouldn’t we maybe think a bit more
before we swallow the spiel. Is buying all this stuff actually ever going to make
us happy, or is it just going to make us skint? Maybe we should be spending more
time with the people in our lives that put a smile on our faces rather than filling
our rooms with endless stuff, half of which we don’t actually need.

So my fellow consumers, it seems that this issue isn’t one restricted to our
own dear 21st Century. Apparently they’ve been doing it for ages, which as
far as I can see means that the advertising companies are onto a winner.
With spending patterns this old I don’t think we’ll be changing our habits anytime soon.
That reminds me, I musr remember to buy some more of that L’Oreal shampoo-
it’s going to make my hair look like Cheryl Cole’s- really. Happy Shopping!

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