Impulse consumerism – digging deeper into mindless consumption.


(few words about money-shopping madness and uncontrollable or impulse consumerism)

My spontaneous decision to travel to India in 2013 triggered a few obvious consequences. I needed to say quick bye to my family and friends for an undefined time, I needed to settle all pending and open things in Poland before the flight date and finally, I needed to pack my entire life in one bag of 20 kg airfare permissible limit and hand luggage. I believe most of the short or long-term travelers can relate to it, we are there put in a situation where we have to select the most useful and practical things to take with us. No sentiments, no merci. Nothing less nothing more.

This ‘more’ kind of thing gets precisely on mute mode when you really do not have the capacity to take things with you. I know. Some of you might say – there are packers& movers services available around the globe and becoming global and really mobile these days it becomes easy (but still not-that-accessibly-cheap) to call up for such help. I agree. Just to consider that not everything we stuff our houses with, is really making our lives fulfilled. Hence not everything we need to drag with us to another part of the world (keeping in mind that people in other countries will have lots of replacement items to offer too!). So, it happened to me, my travel to India opened me for a minimalistic approach towards things I possess, I have to have, I should have, I want (or rather I think I want), those I really need versus experiences to collect instead. That is how my life chapter for being grateful for all I have and being happy with little starts, or to be more precise: decreasing consumer lifestyle and no-TV-at-home story.

Money madness and demand for personally customized lives

When I moved into my first rented flat in India we didn’t have any TV set. 6 young foreign national professionals using laptops to connect with families, to get some news about what’s going on in the world, to get some entertainment. We got so busy exploring India, traveling, tasting the food, enjoying the new culture that we actually didn’t need any other impulses to be happy. Our own company was enough to make a good day. I can proudly announce this no-TV-at-home lifestyle started in 2013 stayed with me till today. And from that point of time, I trust my AHA moment that actually all these days I was literally losing life to television.

Life is meant to be lived, not watched

The consumption we are all falling for make us truly materialistic, meaning that a huge amount of our attention is focused on things we possess and our status we try to upgrade every year. All kind of advertising gives us ‘the desire to own something a little newer, a little better, a little sooner than necessary’ (Brooks Stevens “Planned obsolescence”). The more we spend time watching and following ads, we actually fall for different tactics (I can call it smart and mindful manipulation) into spending money we may not have, on things we may not really want. The entire colorful world is designed to create a fairy tale around any kind of product and make us want it. Marketing masters, ads experts seduce us by seducing our brains in such a way we’re not even aware of to think ‘I want to look like that. I want to feel like that. I want my life to be like this’. The bitter truth is that’s it’s a very cleverly constructed mystification.

Why do we GET things we do not need then?

Walker-Smith says we’ve gone from being exposed to about 500 ads a day back in the 1970’s to as many as 5,000 a day today. “It seems like the goal of most marketers and advertisers nowadays is to cover every blank space with some kind of brand logo or a promotion or an advertisement“. Do you believe it? It’s no wonder that this has massively affected our behavior, thinking, and attitudes. Even if we say to ‘never pay attention to ads’, due to the huge number of them make that their messages get in anyway, shaping our ideas of what’s important and how we (should) feel about things.

The shift in modern advertising is the movement from detailed information that we need to make up our mind to symbolism and manipulation. It celebrates being impulsive – and that actually is what advertising wants from us: automatic responses (the more we think things through, the less likely we are to buy something). Corporations spend millions not to assume you will buy things but that they make you buy at any cost. And that how the business runs today.

Me-centered economy
impulse consumerism

The irony of the Impulse society is that, for all the emphasis on personal pleasure, the output we get is anxiety. If we keep following the impulse consumer behavior, we will replicate similar behaviors in relationships with other people. We will struggle to make, or keep long-term commitments. We already find it harder to engage with people or ideas that don’t relate directly and immediately to us. Empathy weakens, and the trend towards materialism is also increasingly tricking us into losing the personal connections that make us happy. It leaves us physically weak and so socially isolated that people could barely hold a face-to-face conversation. We end up being controlled by our impulses (and buying more and more things to satisfy every sort of emotional or social problem). And to sum up – this not needed consumption leads to the massive waste crisis.

What is it for us?

A great designer, and great man, Victor Papanek, warned us as far back as 1971 that throwing away furniture, cars, clothing and appliances might soon lead us to feel that marriages and other personal relationships were throwaway items as well, and that on global scale, countries and indeed entire subcontinents were as disposable as Kleenex.

With this blog post, I would like to bring your attention to a growing social problem. Impulse and mindless consumerism. To understand more, please have a look at the eye-opening book: Life less throwaway (Tara Button), that actually got me this shock therapy curation for what I am (we are) living for. A life less throwaway, while simpler in many ways, isn’t necessarily the easiest life. This isn’t because it’s had to do on a practical level, but because the majority of society is so wedded to rampant consumerism that it’s liable to suck us back into its clammy folds if you’re not tough enough to resist it.

What about buying less, or if we really need to – buy long-lasting stuff. What about investing in experiences rather than things and living more no-money bonded lives? Or – in other words… the best things in life are free.

Have any more lessons learned? Share them below!

photos source: picjumbo

I would love to hear your comments on this! How about you? What are your buying habits? Would you consider buying less, starting a life less throwaway or investing in the experiences rather than things? Do you have any more suggestions or a question that I haven’t answered? Thank you very much for reading this article. I am curious if you have/had any experience of yours? Any comments? – please share your experience. And if you liked the article – share it, click “Like it” and subscribe to my newsletter.