Consumerism has become an essential aspect of our lifestyle today. The highly addictive
emotional state, that eggs us on to buy more and more, has been labelled “seeking” by
neuroscientist Jaak Panksepp. This state is fuelled by a neurotransmitter known as dopamine,
which ‘promotes states of eagerness and directed purpose,’ Panksepp writes.
In fact, we love it so much, that we find activities that engage this system. Many people reach this state by buying things they may not even look at once they have been bought. Is it just the thrill of the chase?
As I sat at a coffee shop in the National Capital, I happened to overhear a conversation between
two young women. They appeared to be well placed, financially stable and independent and
they pondered over the spending habits of their siblings and friends.
“I think the only person who thinks before spending money is the one who earns it. The one who
just spends has no second thoughts for there is no responsibility towards the money”, said one
of the women.
“When I look at my sister, I wish she thought before spending. It hurts me when I see clothes
with their tags on lying in my wardrobe and I wonder if I could have put that money to better
use”, said the other.
They went on to discuss consumerism and how they end up buying cosmetics they know will
not work, simply because the advertisements have tempted them into considering that choice at
all. Was it worth it, they asked themselves. I reevaluated some of my purchasing decisions, and
gathered solace in the fact that I have almost always budgeted for them carefully.
I mused on their conversation long after I had left the coffee shop that evening. I realized that
we have become hoarders. We buy things we don’t need for purposes we’ll never have. We
pretty much follow the philosophy that “Ads will sell and we will buy”.
Lately, the focus has shifted to online sellers and which of them is offering higher discounts and
lower delivery times. People have gone to the extent of tracking patterns and identifying when a
consumer is likely to get the best deal (4-8pm, I’m told). We want everything, and fast.
Let me discuss one more instance before I leave you to your thoughts, an instance that left
me shaken up. I was speaking with an office runner who took great pride in showing me his
new mobile. Apparently, it came along with a Flat Screen Television at a down payment of Rs
25,000 followed by a fixed monthly installment. He has no count of how many months he has
paid these installments or how many more he has to pay for.
We are all being bitten by the bug to buy. They are infesting our wallets & bank accounts
successfully, wiping out any other intentions that we might have had for our money. Perhaps
from now, everytime we decide that we really, absolutely, undeniably, completely and totally
have got to buy something, hold onto that thought and ask ourselves ,‘Do I need it?’