Mar 19, 2021

Reading time 3 min.

Materialism, a trait that can affect both rich and poor, and which the analysts characterize as “a value system that is preoccupied with possessions and the social image they project”, is both socially dangerous and pointless. It crushes the joy and peace of mind of those affected by it. It’s related to depression and anxiety.

There has long been a connection between materialism, an absence of sympathy and engagement with others, and despondency. In any case, research conducted over the past few years appears to show causation. For instance, a series of studies published in the journal Motivation and Emotion in July indicated that as individuals become more materialistic, their prosperity reduces. As they become less materialistic, it rises.

In one examination, the scientists tried a group of 18-year-olds, at that point re-tried them 12 years later. They were asked to rank the significance of various goals – occupations, cash, and status on one side, and self-acknowledgement. They were then given a standard symptomatic test to identify mental issues. At the ages of both 18 and 30, materialistic individuals were more susceptible to disorders. In that period they turned out to be less materialistic, they became happier.

In another investigation, the analysts followed Icelanders weathering their country’s financial breakdown. A few people turned out to be more focused on materialism, in the desire for regaining lost ground. Others responded by becoming less interested in money and directing their attention toward family and community. The first group reported lower levels of prosperity, the second group higher levels.

These studies demonstrate an only correlation. In any case, the scientists at that point put a gathering of young people through a church program designed to steer kids from spending and towards sharing and saving. The confidence of materialistic children in the program rose essentially, while that of materialistic kids in the control group fell. The individuals who had little interest in materialism before the program experienced no change in self-esteem.

Another paper, published in Psychological Science, discovered that individuals in a controlled test who were repeatedly exposed to images of luxury goods, to messages that cast them as customers rather than citizens, and to words related to materialism, (for example, buy, status, asset and expensive), experienced immediate but temporary increases in material goals, nervousness, and melancholy. They additionally turned out to be more competitive and more egotistical, had a diminished feeling of social obligation, and were less inclined to join in demanding social activities. The scientists point out, as we are more than once bombarded with such images through advertisements, and constantly described by the media as consumers, these brief impacts could be set off pretty much persistently.

A third paper, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, studied 2,500 individuals for a very long time. It found a two-route connection between materialism and depression: materialism fosters social isolation; isolation fosters materialism. Individuals who are cut off from others attach themselves to possessions. This connection crowds out social connections.

The two varieties of materialism that have this impact – using possessions as a yardstick of success and seeking happiness through acquisition– are the varieties that appear to be on display on Rich Kids of Instagram.

Maybe this is one reason an economic model based on perpetual growth continues on its terms to succeed, however, it might leave a trail of unpayable debts, psychological instability, and smashed social connections. Social atomization might be the best sales strategy ever devised, and continuous marketing looks like an unbeatable program for atomization. Materialism forces us into comparison with the possessions of others, a race both savagely represented.

I ought to underscore that this isn’t about contrasts between rich and poor: poor people can be as susceptible to materialism as the rich. It is an overall social burden, visited upon us by government strategy, corporate technique, the breakdown of networks, and municipal life.

This is simply the mistake we are making: permitting ourselves to accept that having more money and more stuff improves our prosperity. Worldly ambition, material aspiration, perpetual growth: these are a formula for mass unhappiness.

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