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Despite consumerism having a large effect on society, the majority of people do not truly understand the impact it has on our lives. The book Affluenza, written by John de Graff, David Wann, and Thomas Nayor, focuses on the shift in American society caused by an increase in consumerism. Similarly, the article “The Consumer Culture” written by David Masei, points out how a vast amount of purchases is not essential, but are based on wants rather than needs. To avoid overconsumption, customers need to be more aware of their purchases as it can be harmful to several factors. Although there may be benefits to consumerism with more goods and services and creating more employment opportunities, it can also be harmful as it targets adolescents through advertising, affects the environment and resources, and can be toxic to physical and emotional health.

Consumerism is a phenomenon that rapidly increasing and is now part of every aspect of our lives today. According to Affluenza, “We now spend 71 percent of our $15 trillion economy on consumer goods”(de Graff et al. 15). Our society is constantly geared toward consumption making most Americans today materialistic. Oftentimes, shoppers go to the mall with a specific product to buy, yet they end up impulse buying products they do not need. “For a lot of people an SUV is a status symbol,” says car salesman Mike Sullivan. “So they’re willing to pay the thirty-to forty-odd thousand dollars to drive one of these vehicles”(de Graff et al. 20). With an increase in consumption, 70 percent of people use malls weekly than houses of worship. More Americans today have invested in security gates rising to 10 percent. As a result, the growth of consumption has changed our society dramatically.

If it weren’t for consumerism, our economy would fall as consumer spending drives the economy. In the article, “Is Greed Good?” Stephen Schiff says, If money is over, what would be the thing that will save you in the bad times as well as good” (Kirby p. 14)? This allows for many people to have employment and the option to have a variety of goods. “The people who make all of these goods use the money they’re paid to do things like buy a house, send their kids to school, and build their churches,” states Martian Regalia (Masei 13). It is a standard way of living as it promotes competition between companies which gives customers the choice to buy specific products, therefore having businesses lead to success. Having competition between companies can also lead to innovations which can help develop a variety of services. Similarly, the average worker’s wages have grown by around 3 recent years.

Consumerism is dominating our world as it increases rapidly, ultimately controlling our lives into thinking it is necessary to buy more products. Society is now a growing consumption market. “In 1986, America still had more high schools than shopping centers. Less than twenty years later, in 2005, we had more than twice as many shopping centers (46,438) as high schools (22,180)” (de Graff et al. 15). The idea of seeing products leads to the desire to buy products. Nowadays, Americans are becoming obsessed with materialistic items which results in neglecting little things in life, including spending quality time with their families and in their communities. In the article “The Consumer Culture,” Diana Furchtgott-Roth states, “If someone buys something, they must think that it is necessary or they would not do it.”(Masei p. 37). Americans have the mindset that having material possessions can improve social well-being. Many believe that are not as well-off as those around them, which encourages them to feel the need to make purchases to live up to that standard. America today is obsessed with buying unnecessary products which can be influenced by advertising.

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Advertisers can persuade customers to buy products that are not relative to their needs. It can be harmful to children as they are incapable of understanding the difference between commercials from programming. Kathryn C. Montgomery, president of the Center for Media Education, states “Kids are very susceptible to advertising, and advertisers know it.”(Masei p.16). This causes children to ask their parents for items that families simply cannot afford. Advertisements influence our lives daily. With that in mind, it puts a strain on parents who constantly say ‘no’ to their children from wanting a product. Kids need to be educated about the impact of commercialism as they could grow up to become hyper-consumers. In the US, average 12-year-olds spend about 48 hours a week exposed to commercial messages. A total of 70% of parents claimed that advertising to kids is bad for their “values and world view,” according to a recent poll commissioned by the Center for the New American Dream. (Masei p. 46). Adolescents are susceptible to messages in television advertisements. Limiting or banning commercials aimed at children can make sure they are not exposed to consumerism at such a young age. Advertisers spend more than $200 billion per year to get consumers to buy their products (Masei p. 3).

Having an increase in consumption can be hazardous to our environment. Resource stocks fall as waste and pollution accumulate. Flood control, fisheries, and water purification have become less effective and require artificial substitutes. “In 2012, the hottest year on record, damages in the United States from natural disasters like floods on the East Coast, forest fires in the Rockies, and deep drought in Texas came to about $139 billion” (de Graff et al. 77). Oil production is now declining in 54 of the world’s 65 oil producing countries as fertilizer is now on a steadily upward trend. Since 1990, China’s consumption of fertilizer increased 800 percent which can soon be chaotic for farmers. Since the drought, world grain production has fallen behind demand in 2007. This caused exporters to keep prices of domestic food down. Continuing to consume at an increasing rate causes over-extraction of resources. Increased consumption can also create waste and pollution for our planet. Lack of resources can be destructive and lead to further health issues.

Overconsumption is a contributing factor to stress. To afford consumer goods, Americans worked longer hours to receive higher incomes. Parents have found it difficult to manage family responsibilities. According to a PEW survey, mothers who worked the fewest hours felt the happiest. (de Graff et al. 37). Jobs today pay less than they used to, making Americans work more than they did a generation ago. Since the pace of work has increased, this puts stress on individuals making them feel overworked and burned out by their jobs. A 2013 Harris Interactive Poll found that 83 percent of American workers say they are stressed out on the job (de Graff et al. 38). Having more pressure of being overworked can lead to depression. Instead of taking care of mental health, Americans tend to focus more on what they can bring home giving individuals less time to recuperate.

In conclusion, consumerism impacts individuals in both positive and negative ways. Although there may be benefits to consumerism with more goods and services and creating more employment opportunities, it can also be harmful as it targets adolescents through advertising, affects the environment and resources, and can be toxic to physical and emotional health. We are constantly exposed as Americans can either be influenced by consumer culture or be against being materialistic. Society needs to focus more on enjoying what you already have and to enjoy less.

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