Our wallets and purses and what they can or cannot buy have slowly morphed into a metaphor of what we have become. 

If we don’t have what’s new, are we really OK? Are we really doing well? Do we need help paying our water bill? 

Even if we have objects and appliances that work perfectly fine, why are we still encouraged to buy the newer, “better” thing? Is it because we can and are living a fever dream of swiping the card to purchase something new? Probably, but it seems like we have the urge to crack the wallet on purchases that aren’t necessary more than a couple of times  every few months. 

And that’s OK, too. I’d say about everyone does it. Call it small-scale conspicuous cosumotion. Or, put another way, just showing off the credit card a little.

Can we help ourselves? We live in a culture where we’re taught to reward ourselves after a straining day or week. It’s a good marketing strategy that some call “self-care,” which is good in theory, but nowadays it feels like every day is more straining than the other. Or maybe I have yet to adjust to this pandemic or that adulting thing I keep at arm’s length over there in the corner.

Anyway, we also live in a world where we are bombarded with new things constantly. They’re everywhere. The internet is plastered with advertisements often catered specifically to ourselves – which I have an issue with, but that’s for another day. Heck, our friends and family can even persuade us to buy things. That’s free advertisement. It’s great. It’s an addiction, seeing what’s new and good. The old plastic aroma that sweeps from new purchases – something that a candle could never replace. 

According to an article from PBS, “The Rise of American Consumerism,” this all started after the second World War. The guys came home to a nation that rose from the ashes of the Great Depression into one that was flourishing because of consumer jobs. So, Americans began buying things that they needed (and didn’t) to support the jobs and the new prosperity supported by the war effort itself. It was the American thing to do. And that makes sense. 

But this same buying tradition hasn’t really left us, though many products that we purchase are not even made in the good ol’ USA. Is it still the patriotic thing to do? I’m not sure, but I’m thinking no.

Buying? It’s who we are, what we have become. What we have and what we don’t. It’s all a look. The amount that we are persuaded to spend on something we don’t really want signifies our worth. Or so we are led to believe. Our consumer society has become one of the biggest scammers I’ve ever seen. Sure, we don’t need it, but we’ll buy it to show others. It’s not our fault. It’s the culture, and most want to join in on the conversation about what they like or don’t like after purchasing that new, shiny and wholly unnecessary object. 

It’s a curse. Sure, it may be a blessing in disguise for the economy, but where do we draw the line of giving mega companies what they want and what we do not need? Where do we find middle ground? Can’t we live simply?

I don’t know. In the pre-Covid world, I was just a girl who used to go to the store to admire, touch and fall in love with garments I knew I wasn’t going to buy – maybe. 

 

— Hannah Morgan, a native of Wyoming County, is attending WVU in pursuit of a career in journalism. Her email is hannahmorgan13943@hotmail.com.

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