Pumpkins, cornucopias and fall-themed items are everywhere. The smell of turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes permeates our houses as we gather with friends and family to enjoy Thanksgiving meals. We share stories and give thanks for what we have.
Almost immediately after, the obsession for buying begins as Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales are everywhere we look. Billboards, banners, signs, commercials and posts on social media — there’s nowhere to hide without being informed of some deal.
In theory, mass consumerism seems ideal. We get anything we want for a discounted price, shipping costs are slashed, transportation time dwindles and the economy is supported by the flow of money.
And why wouldn’t we buy more? The weeks leading up to the December holidays encourage giving and generosity. We feel as though buying gifts is the best way to show people that we are grateful for the role they play in our lives.
However, mass consumerism can be harmful in many ways. When buying new products to replace old ones, we often just toss them out without considering donating them or finding a more sustainable option.
Sustainability is highly entrenched with consumer practices and predictably, mass consumption is not environmentally friendly.
Especially with express shipping online and options like Amazon Prime, buyers tend to request their goods sooner. According to a video by Vox, 79 percent of Americans shop online.
The environmental effect of an excess of online shopping is striking and quite scary.
According to Vox, the circulation of gifts from online sources has skyrocketed with the addition of 200 million more deliveries in 2017 than in 2010. More deliveries means more fuel used for trucks, ships and planes, which harms the environment and costs more money.
In addition, faster turnaround time and more purchases can decrease the quality of work and pressure the factories or distributors who prepare to ship our purchases. The workforce may be working in undesirable conditions, simply because we need our stuff faster and because we need a lot of it.
As companies cater to our desire for more, they stretch and adjust every aspect of their operations to appeal more to the consumer’s needs. Some stores open at unreasonably early hours on the morning of Black Friday or even Thursday night. Employees may be incentivized or forced to work immediately after Thanksgiving, and may endure terrible shifts just because they expect mass crowds.
The social pressures of mass consumerism can lead people to become competitive, ungrateful and, in some cases, violent. People fight each other just to get the newest toy or gadget.
Besides the fact that we as a society always want more, there are other social pressures toward buying and giving. People post pictures on Instagram and Facebook about new things they get and give, and we all want to contribute to this trend and show off our gifts and purchases.
Companies prey off these social pressures, strategizing to assemble the perfect marketing strategy to cater to our desires as consumers. And when people see attractive deals, they will buy things just for the sake of buying them. Even if we don’t need something, a good deal will convince us otherwise.
There are other ways to show our generosity and appreciation without literally buying into mass consumerism.
Homemade gifts and volunteering are both great examples of ways to give our time rather than spend lots of money. Personalized gifts, buying from local businesses and buying from places that match each purchase with a donation are also good examples.
It’s important not to lose touch with what the holiday season is all about. We should be thankful for what we have rather than focusing on what we don’t.
Spending isn’t always selfish, and many people love to do good and give to those they care about. It’s crucial that we don’t let the allure of deals distract us from these values.