Throughoutthis essay, my aim is to discuss the themes and theories behind objects of selfand other in relation to consumer theory and issues in identity, trying toidentify on some level why we mass consume and why we attach ourselves toobjects.
Before I go on to discuss consumerism I need to acquire a betterunderstanding of why we as consumers attach ourselves to possessions and the ideologiesbehind them. Thereare many expressions of self. There are external objects and possessions, beingclothes, personal items, furniture etc. but there is also the extended self,which can be people, places and even our body parts. Elements of control comeinto ‘self’ and the awareness of control over something decides whether thatthing is me, mine or myself. Our external objects are referred to as mine, weown them and have control over them therefore we can say they are ‘mine’. This is different with people for obvious reasons aspeople have free will, we have no control over them, therefore they are not’mine’ but just an extension of ‘self’. Loved ones are an extensionof self and when we lose a person from our lives we lose a part of self andgrieve which is recognised as ‘a part of life’, but it has also been found,that we also go through a similar grieving process when we lose externalpossessions and objects whether it be through accidental loss, damage or theft.
Ernest Ditcher stated: Hollowhands clasp ludicrous possessions because they are links in the chain of life.If it breaks, they are truly lost.1 So, although grieving isnormally associated with the loss of a loved one whether it be friends orfamily, the loss of possessions and objects can be just as devastating and wecan go through a very similar grieving process as we do when dealing withdeath.
This can be due to connecting with an external object by associating itwith happy memories, sentimental value and unique objects that areirreplaceable and as a result you’re losing a part of ‘self’. An example of this is the Film ‘The Tsunami and the CherryBlossom’ based on the T?hoku earthquake and tsunami in 2011. Although the focus of the film is thebeacon of hope that the Cherry Blossom tree brings to the residents of Japan, the film also followsthe survivors of the tsunami. They gave their first-hand accounts of the peopleand the belongings lost and what they witnessed during the tsunami. There was ascene in which an unknown man is telling the interviewer what he witnessed,stating: The car was about to be swept away, it was newso he ran back for it, they both got swept away and the tsunami took my dearestold friend.
I lost everything I lived for.2 The pointhere is that even in these extreme circumstances, people cannot be withouttheir possessions and do questionable things to keep control of them. Thisunknown survivor lost a loved one and everything he owned and in his words, ‘everythinghe lived for’ so you could argue that he lost his identity and so did thousandsof other people. The philosophyof self is the objects and possessions we own and consume and how we experiencethese things in comparison to others. Consumerism became the norm following theindustrial revolution in the 18th century when goods became readilyavailable and so luxury items became essentials to many people with the meansthe purchase them. Today, every household contains flat screen Televisions, thelatest laptops and smartphones and this is because as a society we oftenconsume beyond our means. This leads me to discuss why we mass consume andeffects it has on our mental health. Connectionsare made to society through links to age, gender, politics, lifestyle andethics.
Advertising and social media are the main enforcers of this, forexample in fashion and beauty advertising clothes and makeup on models who areshown to be ‘the ideal woman’, which leads other women to believe they canachieve the same look through purchasing the products, when in realityadvertisers are creating an unrealistic goal which in a lot of cases, onlyleads to low self-esteem and mental illness, but profit for these companies asthis ideal image is continuously trying to be achieved. We live ina day and age where mental illness is at its peak whether it be depression,anxiety or OCD. Mass consumerism is said to be one of the reasons why this iscurrently such a big issue.
Consuming can be used as a means of connecting withothers, we consume passions, theatre, film, clothing, food and technology andwe use it as a gateway to social events to connect and be accepted by others.If we can’t do this, whether it be through lack of money, we feel disconnectedfrom others and the community leaving us feeling distanced and this again canlead to mental illness or amplify underlying issues. PsychologistBruce Levine has a theory that, The mental illness crisis is like the canariesin a coal mine.
They are ones with unique sensitivities to environmentalstimuli. When coalminers saw their canaries falling of the perch they knew thatsomething was wrong, they knew that conditions in the mine had deteriorated andit was time to get out.3 The pointhere is, could the reason be that the mental health crisis is the way it is becausethere is something seriously wrong with the way that we live and our culture?1Ditcher, E.
Handbook of Consumer Motivations: ThePsychology of Consumption 2Walker, L. The Tsunami and the CherryBlossom3 GUEST. The Rules Blog www.blog.therules.org