With everything exciting and new going on around us today, we tend to forget about the effects society has on our lifestyles and the way we think. Society’s obsession with expensive things and what’s new and hot has become part of this popular modern culture that is up and rising all around us. I definitely feel that materialism is a huge part of today’s society in Myanmar and it is only expected to increase with how quickly our economy is blooming. A value on a price tag has become somewhat a way of defining quality of life and even a way of life in most parts of the world. However, it’s only natural being human we do sometimes conform to social norms because we want to do a good job fitting in. But what really defines value? Why is it that we are so easily influenced into thinking that it is necessary to buy certain products and convince ourselves that we need to keep up? What’s the psychology behind why we need to purchase these goods?
My experience with materialism started when I was quite little. I grew up thinking that pricier meant better because it guaranteed quality. My father taught me that it was always a good choice to invest in good quality products because it would last me a longer. I remember wanting toys that my other friends would have because I felt It would make me feel accepted. When you’re going to school, you want to fit in and sometimes it can be pretty tough when you have nothing interesting or “cool” to talk about.
I think the time materialism got to me most was after I moved abroad to study. This was when internet was most accessible and the use of electronics became a huge part of my daily life. It’s the age of the internet, and we are constantly being exposed to different things online. Being on social media platforms like instagram and facebook, I saw how a lot of people from friends to acquaintances would share posts about things they wanted or things they had, and some about the really cool lifestyles that were leading. That combined with following a bunch of celebrities and cool labels on Instagram really had me thinking how cool it would be to be part of something like that. I would fall for every marketing trap, from fancy pink packaging to who promotes it and how popular the item was at the time. I even fell for Nespresso initially because it was George Clooney promoting it, but after tasting the coffee I felt I had made the best choice because it tasted freaking amazing. Okay, bad example but you get the drill.
When did I snap out of it? Have I snapped out of it at all? Living abroad had impacted my life in many different ways. After being exposed to a really casual and effortless lifestyle here, I really admired how easy-going people here are, and how labels and brands didn’t really matter to them. You could walk to the grocery store in your most worn-out PJs and people wouldn’t really care enough to give you unwelcome looks. Sadly, this isn’t the case in Yangon. This unfortunate culture has become more prominent today, with celebrities and social media influencers promoting a lifestyle that not everyone cannot afford, but there’s just something sparkly and amazing about them that makes us want it even more. However, it’s important to know what we can and cannot influence and control. We all have the power to promote social change and present different aspects and angles at which we can look at things. We, humans are amazing creatures and it’s so hard to explain how our brain works and how we make decisions. It’s only natural for humans to want to belong to and be part of a community.
However badly we may conform to society and many of its sad mindsets, it’s always good to know how people and things we are exposed to online/offline can affect how we think. From awareness and identifying contributing factors, I was able to start my change process with slow steps. I admit, it isn’t easy to not want things and not be influenced by what’s in my news feed. There’s really no exact solution to the materialistic culture because we are all built differently and have different ways of thinking about life. It’s really a matter of choice, but it’s always a plus to be aware of what’s affecting you and how it has impacted your life.
At the end of day, it’s us who define and measure our quality of life, and the amazing thing is, we all have rulers of different lengths.