My generation, and several before it, have been encouraged to consider consumerism a form of self expression and self-actualisation. We’re effectively told that what we think and who we are should be primarily expressed through our appearance and possessions. Good for the economy, certainly, but not necessarily for our own mental health.
I saw this piece on the BBC website, for example:
(I’d use their embedding but for some reason it wasn’t offered on this video)
This idea of “generation cool” shouldn’t really be considered all that new – it’s fundamental to consumerist society. Before now though the main way to explain who we were to other members of the same society was through, essentially, peacocking.
The explosion of social media is interesting in that it allows us to curate an online version of ourselves showing off who we wish to be seen as. Whether that’s a good thing or not remains to be seen, admittedly, but at least in order to have photos of us doing things we consider “cool” we need to have actually done them!
It’s still self-delusion in some ways, I suppose, but the availability of instant sharing of experiences does at least help provide immediate reward. Instead of having to come back and tell people later we can be seen to be doing things as they happen, allowing our friends and followers to see. If this results in escalation towards us all trying to be more interesting people surely that can only be a good thing?
Whether we’ll achieve as much remains to be seen but there’s something to be said for better mental health. Not everyone needs to be a tortured artist, do they?