The life of a consumer
What is a consumer?
When we use something that is made or created by someone else, then we become a consumer. They create for us and we consume whatever it is that they have created. As a consumer, we start to depend on goods and services created by others to give us happiness. We no longer try to find ways to satisfy our own needs. Instead we try to looks for ways to obtain something that can do that for us. That is what it means to be a consumer, someone who depends on other peoples creations to fulfill their own needs.
What is the difference between consuming and creating?
When we create something on or own to fulfill our needs. We wait until a need presents itself and then we create something to satisfy that need. for example. We get hungry, so we find something to eat. We get bored, so we find someone to talk to,we use our mind to create something like art or music, or we spend that time pondering the mysteries of life and the universe.
The point is. When we create in order to fulfill our own needs, what we create is always something specifically designed to satisfy that specific need without creating more needs in the process. The goods and service we buy however, are not designed this way. When creating for a group of people at the same time. It's impossible for a creator to design something that fits perfectly to the needs of every single individual they want to satisfy. So instead they create something that is acceptable to most.
Because they are only acceptable to most of us, they then usually try to hide this behind extra ingredients, like sugar, when it comes to food, nudity, sex and violence, when it comes to entertainment, and new features and technologies, when it comes to goods. All of this is added to make, what is in reality barley able to fulfill our needs, seem more exiting and therefor more satisfying.
But because none of these things are actually able to satisfy our needs, we tend to grow tired of them pretty quickly. And so we start to look for and demand, of the creators, even more new and exiting products. This is why there are so many new products and services constantly being created. Because all creators know, based on experience, that if they stop renewing themselves, eventually we will grove bored of their products, we will stop buying the and they will lose money. And because nothing they make can satisfy our needs, it has turned into an endless fight to stay ahead of our collective boredom.
What is the alternative?
In a way, I guess you could say that we live in a world that is built upon consumerism. We rely on mass produced food that comes either from big farms, trough distributors, in the form of fruit, vegetable or meat we can buy in the store or from factories where they take products from farms and mix them with various other chemicals in order to make the food more tasty and long lasting.
Obviously we depend on a farming based structure in order to provide enough food for everyone, but we could probably do just fine without all the factories that reprocess and "poison" our food. When you take away all of the factory produced goods, what you are basically left with though, are ingredients. And ingredient's by themselves are not food unless we use them to make a meal of some kind. So while the farmers may be providing the ingredients we are the ones creating what we eat. So if you no longer want to be a consumer of food, then you need to stop buying factory food and start creating your own.
When it comes to nonfood items, what we usually refer to as consumer goods, things get a bit tougher though. Our houses are filled with junk we never use and have no need for. We buy them because they seem new and exiting at first glance. But once we have bought them we loose all interest in them. In order to present the best path forward in this case, I will stop calling these things consumer goods and instead call them by what they are, namely tools. They are tools that we use to complete daily tasks in our lives. And a tool isn't meant to be exiting. A tool is meant to be useful. If I need to do something and I don't know how, then i might go looking for a tool that will make it possible. But this isn't what we do. Instead we go around looking for exiting tools that can enable us to do things we actually don't need to do. And also, because of this we often end up with tools that are better for other things than the things we actually need them for. And when we buy tools that don't live up to our expectations, we begin to look for new and even better ones that might satisfy them better.
The solution here is to only look for tools when we need them and only look for tools that do what we need them to do specifically and nothing more. Because when we buy a tool that does more than we need it to, we also start to look for ways to make use of all the functions we didn't previously need. And when the tool alone isn't fully able to fulfill this new need, we start looking for even more tools and so on.
When it comes to entertainment, things get even worse. The origins of entertainment is storytelling. People would meet and tell stories to each other. It was a way of socializing, and of course still is. In the past people would meat and talk in order to fulfill their need to feel connected. Today, instead the will, often, spend hours in front of some kind of screen instead, in order to satisfy that same need. Pretty much the only reason why we socialize less and less and why more and more people live lonely lives without any friends or a social life, is the fact that we spend more and more time at home trying to satisfy our needs by watching other people socialize or pretend to socialize.
In order to stop this we need to take charge of our own social lives. Instead of seeing, reading and hearing about other people, both real and non real, living their lives trough various form of media, we need to go out and actually live ourselves. Watching other people live, seemingly, satisfying lives, will never be able to make our own lives feel satisfying. This is why we are constantly looking for new forms of entertainment. In the hopes that it will somehow be able to fulfill our needs.
as you can see. Anything create by others will never truly be able to satisfy us unless we are a part of that creative process involved in making those things or experiences. So if we want to live satisfying lives. We need to create the contents of that life on our own instead of depending on others, who we don't know, to make it for us.
What can being a consumer lead to?
To be a consumer means to be addicted to novelty created by others. And just like a drug-addict have to constantly increase his or her dosage in order to get a high. We need to constantly find more and more exiting things in order to fulfill our ever increasing need for novelty.As long as we can find and afford new things to give us our daily "high", we are fine. but if we ever reach the point where nothing seems to be enough or we can't afford to keep up with our ever growing needs, that is when we are in trouble.
If we simply can't find anything to satisfy our needs, we might start to feel depressed, because the fact, that we aren't satisfying our own needs, has finally caught up to us and we don't know how to deal with it. And if the problem is money we might take up expensive loans, that we can't afford to pay back, in order to finance our needs, leading us to go personally bankrupt.
As long as we keep being consumers we are in a constant race against ourselves, trying to find enough novelty to distract ourselves with in order to hide how lacking our lives truly are. Is this really the way we want to live?