Consumerism and Dissatisfaction: America’s Addiction

July 4, 2013 Kristance Harlow
shopping carts

One major thing that defines contemporary postmodern society, aka us internet using, eBay shopping, Facebooking, Tweeting peeps (get it? tweeting by peeps…because peeps are little marshmallow birds…harhar), is consumerism. We love to buy. Buy buy buy. In today’s society the individual is manipulated to desire, value, and purchase objects. Consumerism is about more than acquiring goods, it’s about being dissatisfied with what you have. If you feel stable you no longer seek stability through the economy. If the public has a sense of insecurity they will continue to purchase and foster a false sense of security. Here is a quick and easy breakdown that explains why we love buying things.


The difference between wants and needs is that needs are about gaining satisfaction and wants are desire that has to be fostered and created (Campbell). Using desire to fuel the economy means creating the illusion of purchasing for satisfaction. We’re taught to believe that we don’t just want that new smartphone, but we need it, and without it we will not be satisfied. Then a newer model comes out and the one you have starts having glitches and looks less shiny than it did when you got it, now you need the newer one or you will not be satisfied and the cycle continues. Consumerism is fed by dissatisfaction. In order to be happy we think we must continually renew; creating new ideas and disposing of old one. It’s kind of a cultural pointillism. Pointillism is an artistic technique in which small dots are painted in a pattern and the final image is ultimately understood by the viewer’s brain which will blend the colors into a complete picture. We are collecting distinct and individual objects and thinking that once we collect all the things we want, our lives will be complete.

The Internet is Rewiring Your Brain

They’re all texting each other, it’s way easier to type “;)”
to let someone know you’re joking than actually
speaking out loud and sounding funny. #hard (tumblr)




As a website consultant and content writer I know the importance of having information presented in a format that is clickable, quick to read, and easy to navigate. New studies suggest that technology is actually rewiring our brains. We are processing information differently and becoming less able to communicate face to face. Instead of deeply analyzing text, the brain is taking in a lot of superficial information at much quicker rates. The quick clicking and impulse movements around the web mirror pointillism in time. (Ritter)

Dating and Consumerism

Internet dating has grown in leaps and bounds over the last decade. It relies on companies and companies rely on consumers to turn a profit. These sites are fostering images of dissatisfaction in order to draw people to their services. By creating the illusion of real flesh and blood interactions they assert that these communications are not only safe but honest. The ability to quickly dispose of an online partner is appealing to the new generation of dissatisfied consumers who constantly want the next big thing.


The work of advertisers is to understand what makes the non-analytical consumers of today tick. Quick decisions and multiple ups and downs in satisfaction mean that companies are constantly gauging emotional triggers and how to harness them. The consumer then becomes a product because consumers want to be someone who owns a specific item. In other words, we are being sold as ‘object-owners’.

Patriotism and Voting With Your Wallet

Get out there and make it rain responsibly! (tumblr senorgif)

The new way to be a patriot is through market consumption. In the past obligations were for the country, and today obligations are for the economy. Advertisements assisted in that transition of cultural values. Thrift (reducing purchases) has been replaced with a bargain (buying cheaper goods).
The most powerful political statement an individual can make in the United States is actually not with their ballot but with their wallet. Purchasing power is where the power is because corporations control politicians because they have money to back campaigns, and they also control the public through advertising.
Do you want things to change? Then next time you buy something, think about your purchasing power and become a conscious consumer. Know where your product comes from, how it is produced, and where the profit goes. What causes are you funding by buying that product? Is it something you disagree with? If you take time to research before you vote in an election, do the same when next time you go to the grocery store.

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  1. Morris Creedon-McVean on May 18, 2015 at 5:59 am

    This is well written, but it is essential a contemporary rehash of Marchall McCluhan’s predictions in his 1959 “The Medium is the Message”.I have resarched this extensively, and I was so convinced that he was correct,I have not watched TV since I read the book 1969. I have never met or know of a single other person who acted on his theories. His theories,which have been proved with scientific certainty by cuttingg edge research by psychiatrist and neeurobiologists by 2003. There piles of data that show the results on society are just as he predicted. Some of the supporting data come from the Government’s Census data, so it cannot be challenged, since the party in control is the only source of possible corruption of the data.
    The latest data (2014) shoes that the hours per day of tV watching is STILL on the rise,which verifies the “heroin like addiction” is just as
    predicted, and the scientific research has mapped out the cause in the brain down to the level of how neurons communicate with other neurons (by chemical messengers like serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine—the brains regulating mechanism),which shows why we have lost any sense bout what is really important in life.) This field is so “hot”that the researcher often do not have time to write research papers, simply because such a report will by far out-of-date by the time it is published. As a result, their way the general public ,even those that understand the science well enough to understand what the researching are talking about (that includes myself!. There is only one book worth reading:”American Mania:When More Is Not Enough”, by Peter Whybrow at UC San Diego, 2005. An update was scheduled for now but it has been delayed, without explanation, which has me worried.

  2. mplanck on July 6, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    A thoughtful analysis of contemporary life as it is formed by a consumer culture. A basic principle in the successful selling of new ideas or products is: Create a need and then fill it. Exaggerating natural needs or inclinations is part of the consumer economy. Everyone likes to eat so market easier, bigger, and more exotic food products. Relaxed in front of the TV? Grab a burger or send out

    • Kristance Harlow on July 7, 2013 at 4:31 am

      Exactly, there are so many ways we are manipulated by our culture (and created by that culture) and then we take those things on as truths (such as need vs want). Glad you enjoyed it!

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