COLUMN: Humans need to think back to societal success rather than depend on materialistic culture
Our species' dependence on consumerism has made us unhappy.
Apr. 08, 2021
Campbell Biemiller is a first-year journalism major at MU. She is an opinion columnist who writes about politics and entertainment for The Maneater.
The modern age is surrounded by consumerism, materialism and an overall technological dependency. As a result, the human species has lost a lot in the process. Through our advancements, we lost our humility and our ability to sustain ourselves off necessities and simple pleasures.
In ancient times, people traveled together, stopping where they needed to and built a life out of the resources around them. Nomads used resources to their maximum ability and didn’t crave material objects like we do today.
Why could humans survive and be content with so little, when in the modern age we have exponentially more “things,” but have higher rates of depression and unhappiness than ever before?
Depression affects more than 264 million people worldwide, according to the Word Health Organization. Due to a social stigma where feelings are a sign of weakness, many people struggle with confronting emotions. People also become increasingly competitive to have the nicest objects among their equals. Whether someone has the newest pair of shoes or not, they’re still shoes and our species has lost appreciation for what we have, no matter the quality.
There is no doubt that our technological advances in the digital age have been revolutionary and shown the unique abilities of humans. Yet, these advancements are also the reason we have lost our self value and our ability to be content with ourselves.
Happiness and personal relationships satisfy our natural instincts while materialistic goods provide praise. When we buy clothes or gadgets, we are showing to the world what materialistic goods we possess and care about. The way we treat people and maintain friendships is a true reflection of ourselves and how we want to be as individuals.
It’s safe to say returning to ancient ways of life will not solve our modern day issues. Modern science is needed to combat the harm of COVID-19 and the vast research we do is necessary to help understand our relationship with the world. Unless there was a way to make us start over completely, this return to ancient life remains hypothetical. The root of the issue isn’t that we are a complex and advanced society, it is that we have too much greed to be happy.
It’s upsetting to see people stare at screens in dining halls waiting for their food, rather than sitting patiently. People seem to be self-conscious without a technological distraction to save them from awkward encounters. Devices add a security blanket to personal insecurities with being alone. We are dependent on something to keep us “company,” which instant communication provides.
If as a society we were able to return to pre-technological ways of life, we could rebuild from our roots and relearn what it means to be human and how to satisfy ourselves with less. The older generations didn’t have this problem because they were focused on the real present rather than the screen-present. Consumerism and materialism results in human greed as we are constantly chasing money to find happiness, while real happiness is in our surroundings.
We need to be happy to see sunny days, to appreciate having food and water and enjoy the company of our friends and families. The newest iPhone or trending shoes won’t make us happy on the inside, because material objects perpetuate a cycle of buying the newest trend.
This hypothetical change would switch our addiction to consumerism and materialism to inner peace and an overall sense of unity as a species. Rebuilding from the ground up would allow humans to focus on themselves as individuals and relearn their morals.
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Edited by Sofi Zeman | email@example.com