The views of this article are the perspective of the author and may not be reflective of Confessions of the Professions.
Consumer Nation: Buying Our Way To Happiness
It is clear that we live in a consumer nation, from Black Friday until Christmas, and even throughout the entire year, every year, most of us become mindless zealots who want everything from the latest technology crave to the best looking clothes, houses, or cars. We want and want and want even more, never satisfied with what we have, and always looking to have the next best thing, for our own instant gratification.
It is not strictly society’s fault or anyone in particular, as everyone has been conditioned this way. From when we are young children and throughout our lives, with billions of dollars spent in advertising a year, we love stuff. We love to want stuff, we love to need stuff, we love to buy stuff, and we love to have stuff.
We are often swayed by advertising on television, radio, and Internet. When we see what others have, it makes us want it, especially when we don’t have it. While some are lucky to get food throughout the holidays, most others are worried with what gifts they will be showered with, who got them what, and if their requests for stuff were granted by their friends or loved ones. Rather than the love of spending cherished moments with each other, it is about playing with our new stuff.
It is certainly a great time of year to request gifts and mention things you want and actually receive them, but the whole idea of it all seems forced and a must for everyone who chooses to participate in the giving and possibly receiving. There is nothing wrong with giving or receiving and there is certainly nothing wrong with even spoiling your loved ones, but the expectation of tons of expensive gifts every year is not what the holiday season should be about.
Xfinity, also known as Comcast, came out with a commercial during the holidays in 2014, that perfectly describes our society and the way it is with technology and each other. It used to be that a family would gather around, and while they might watch some television together, when technology was not so prevalent in our homes, families were forced to actually interact with each other, play games together, and communicate with each other.
During this commercial, the ghost of Christmas brings Mr. Scrooge inside the house of a family, with two parents and three children. The father is on his laptop, while the mother is on her cellphone, and the three children, who are partially interacting with each other, are on their tablets. This commercial is completely normal and appropriate, as it defines exactly how our society is today.
Xfinity would know best and are portraying the truth about society. They are, after all, the ones who provide the cable television and the Internet and know the exact usage for every family who uses their service, and also how many devices are connected and using their service. Mr. Scrooge proceeds to say, “Look how happy they are.”
Times have changed and it seems to be completely normal for all family members to have their faces buried in a screen and not really interacting with each other. Maybe if they were interacting, they would not be as happy because they would not have their technology.
I personally, just as my family, and even my friends, are all guilty of doing just this. We interact, we talk, we communicate, and then once everything has settled down, the laptop, the cellphone, and the tablets come out, and while we are there in each other’s presence, we are not really communicating or enjoying each other’s company, because we are engaged in our precious technology, ignoring each other, and cruising all of our favorite websites or texting our friends.
It is up to society and each and every individual family to set the limits and standards for technology use for their children and each other. It seems the more connected we are with technology, the less connected we are with each other. It is time to teach each other what the holidays really mean and what they stand for.
The holidays have been commercialized by big corporations with billions of dollars to spend on advertising in every attempt and effort to get you and your family addicted and focused on their products, so that everyone spends money without really thinking about it.
Every year, hundreds of shopping centers allow solicitors to stand at their doors, specifically the Salvation Army, who are a reputable organization, and ask for donations from people. Plenty of people give a few dollars here and there, but the majority tend to ignore or walk right past the people standing their collecting money. Most of these people are not standing their for their health, but actually collecting money for those that do need it, for those without clothing or food.
Beware of some charitable organizations that you donate to, but find your favorite and donate. Better yet, if you have clothes, find a local shelter and donate. If you have food, find a local food kitchen and donate non-perishable canned foods. ‘Tis the season of giving – giving to charity.
The holidays need to be about giving to those who truly need it and sharing loving moments and memories with loved ones. I am not here to tell anyone how to spend their holidays or to stop buying and spoiling their loved ones, but simply to remember that the holidays, and even everyday, should be about helping others, and enjoying the moments spent together, for every moment is just a moment in time, and nothing lasts forever.
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Matthew Gates is a freelance web designer and currently runs Confessions of the Professions