Seth points out an article today in Media Life Magazine about neophilia, an overwhelming, compulsive love of all things new. Seth rightly points out that this phenomena can easily be found on our coasts and in the tech community, but one would be hard-pressed to find evidence of such an afflicition in, say, Lena, Illionois.
This phenomena and the overall culture of consumerism in America has been wreaking havoc on my conscience of late. As a marketing major in college, I soaked up any book I could find on how to effectively persuade folks to buy. Night after night was spent in bookstores and libraries learning about action words and scarcity and the subliminal effect of guarantees and planned obsolescence.
But in the past few years, my exuberance for the marketing machine has waned considerably. It’s not that I don’t enjoy new things or nice things. It’s not that I don’t appreciate being able to instantly discover a dozen different solutions to any problem I may have. It’s not that I don’t find myself often a victim of neophilia – quite the opposite. But I wonder if all this psychological manipulation in the interest of consumption is going to have a bad impact on our lives in the long run.
I’m concerned because we’re learning how to become increasingly fat, lazy people with entitlement complexes. I’m concerned because we live in an increasingly more competitive world with decreasing resources, and we don’t know anything about hardship. I’m concerned because while I’m shopping there are hundreds of thousands of men and women in China and India who are patiently training and learning to mop the floor with me in the global economy.
More importantly, I’m worried about how much my identity, our identities are tied up in the things we own. We’ve moved from “those new ice boxes are fancy” to “It’d be great to have a Camero like that” to “I need a new game system” to “I deserve that Blackberry and the $250 pair of jeans.”
We’ve had a marketing machine around for a few decades, and it has blasted into our brains that our lives are somehow less fun, less meaningful if we don’t have the newest and best. We’re obsessed. Genetic or not, it has truly become an addiction. We work and live to buy and own.
We always joke about the yokels in the midwest who don’t have a clue. When our standard of living changes (which I’m almost certain it will,) I wonder who will look like the smart one – the guy who’s happy with his beat up F-150 and his blissful ignorance about Bluetooth and Web 2.0….or me and my New York apartment and Motorola PEBL and Google Calendar and keeping up with the Jones and envy because that guy has a really nice suit and why don’t I have one like that because we all know that I’m entitled to it.Follow @intentionally