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Consumerism - The False Millennial Promise

Posted on 28th April 2019

Sales, Discounts, Promotions. Flashed in our faces down every avenue, the unwavering trend of immediate consumerism has become unavoidable. Taking the fashion, technology and lifestyle industries by storm, it has prised its way into every aspect of our lives – but where do we draw the line? Can switching out our personality traits be as simple as upgrading our phones?

With the ever-changing fashion seasons, iPhone colours, décor models and beauty developments, we’re conditioned to believe that almost everything is expendable, tossing aside our possessions in favour of the latest trends – clinging to a fear of being left behind.

Between January and August in 2018 alone, one billion cell phones were produced in China, demands running high as consumers raced to upgrade, hurling up to £1,000 at providers in exchange for social validation. With this throw-away culture becoming so prominent, some are even driven to neglect their perceived flaws in favour of traits upheld by society; but is this really possible, or is this simply another futile attempt at self-improvement?

With the image of admirable characteristics, stories of success and fast obtained happiness in the form of beauty, work, intelligence and finance plastered across the media, we’re consumed by the guilt of not being “up-to-date”. We’re led to set unrealistic goals that constantly move from reach as progressions in society continue to be made.

Falling behind, we look to ‘quick fix’ solutions to improve our personas. We swap out the qualities we dislike through plastic surgery, imitation and learnt behaviour to present a ‘socially acceptable’ version of ourselves to those around us. We fool everyone holding our latest iPhone model, and new store-bought confidence. However, with the persistently changing culture, this feeling of success is often temporary. Our belongings lose sentimental value and we are left drifting further from ourselves. So, is consumerism really as enticing as advertisements promise?

Companies continue to advocate for the economic savings and social improvements to be made as each sale passes, however they chose to ignore the loss of identity and value that falls hand in hand. With the pressure to reinvent increasing exponentially at the prospect of a new year, novelist Matt Haig shared this insight: “Consumerism wants you to feel guilty, that’s how it makes its money.” The ideology of striving for the unobtainable lies at the foundation of cultural ruin, our inability to settle simultaneously progressing and inhibiting society’s growth.

So, is it viable to continue moving forward in this way? Or is it time to focus on our own psychological recycling? Should we be taking inspiration from the past and restoring the value of our belongings and attitudes? Or is next week’s sale just too enticing?


Bethany Brown (Studying A Levels in English Literature, Geography and Travel & Tourism)