As time goes by the American dream is becoming exceedingly materialistic. I believe that the Americans have always been materialistic to a greater or lesser extent, but I’m very sure when I say, that the world has never been as materialistic as these recent years. If we take a look back in time people aspired of having a job that paid well, so they could live in a house in the suburbs and own one or two nice cars. That would be more than enough and more than satisfying. Today everything is different. Not that we don’t longer aspire these things. We just aspire so much more, that it sometimes can get terrifying what or who we have become.
Even though a lot of people are confident that materialism never could have any bad effects on Americans and American society, they are far from right. It doesn’t surprise me if lots of people trust the position that materialism can’t hurt anyone or anything, because only few people familiarize themselves with it and reflects on this topic. It’s completely okay if you haven’t done this yet, but I hope you will begin to do it while reading this.
I’ll bet that you have heard that the good life is obtainable through the ‘goods life’. It won’t surprise me if you sit and recognize to this right now. Because who wouldn’t? We have all been exposed to this opinion through consumer messages such as TV shows, social media, in public bathrooms or at the train station. Telling us to spend lots of money on their products, that should make us a better person thus a happier person overall. In fact, billion dollars are spent every year on consumer messages in America. Quite overwhelming! It might seem ridiculous to you but this commercialization has over time reached deeper and formed its way into people’s minds.
But lots of researches absolutely show, that the more the people value materialistic values and goals, the lower happiness and satisfaction the person will achieve. Now that was not what the consumer message promised us, was it? These researches also show that depression, anxiety and substance abuse actually tend to be much higher among people who only value materialistic wealth. Do you think this could have an impact on other people’s wellbeing? The answer is yes. Strong materialistic values actually influence our social relationships and therefore other people’s wellbeing.
Studies also show that materialistic values and social values function like a tilt. When materialistic values go up, pro social values most of the times tend to go down. This also explains why people tend to act less emphatic and generous when they only got money on their mind.
Materialism also affects the American society. This can also be compared with a tilt. As material values go up, the concern for the nature tends to go down. Researches sadly show those people are less likely to be a part of ecologically beneficial activities such as recycling and reusing things.
But what makes people to focus on materialistic values? Studies show that people who feel insecure about themselves tend to focus more on materialistic values. Instead of spending time with the persons they love, a lot of people tend to buy something materialistic instead, for example a new bag to blow the self-esteem.
A quote I want to include is as follows:
“Some people are so poor, all they have is money”, – Bob Marley.
The quote says that rich and poor shouldn’t be measured in the terms of money. A person may have lots of money and therefore also lots of material goods such as a big house, expensive cars, designer bags and so on, but if the person doesn’t have intrinsic values such as growing as a person and be close to the ones you love for example your family, then his/her money is of no use at all. In some point anybody can be rich in money but the best kind of rich you can be, is rich in love, happiness and persons that actually care about you.
The studies show the materialistic values tend to go down when the intrinsic values go up. These intrinsic values promote not only personal and social wellbeing, which will be positive for Americans but also ecological wellbeing, which will be positive for American society.
Commercialism and consumerism have gotten a grip on us and it’s almost inescapable. But even though there are powerful forces that push material values on us, there is after all something we can do about it to reverse this ‘trend’. Some ways are, for example, to use ad blocker to hide ads on the Internet and to mute when commercials play on TV. But more important we need to get active in this debate and remove advertising from public spaces such as the train stations. So, people aren’t exposed to material messages as often as they are today. Instead, there should be a greater focus on intrinsic values. But changing our own lifestyle isn’t enough. We need to advocate for policies that promote these intrinsic values.
This overall means that we can break the hold by making changes in our personal lives while at the same time working for broader social changes.
So, what do you want to be rich in? You decide.