The Culture of Consumption
How a 20 something year old is navigating through the fields of consumerism
I’ve been wanting to write an article about this for a while, I just never really knew where to start. The word consumption is generally used when talking about physical consumption of things like food, buying clothes, and other material things. The other kind of consumption that plays a pretty big role in my life is digital consumption. There is almost never a shortage of digital media in my life, whether it is watching YouTube videos, or scrolling through Instagram, I am constantly consuming digitally.
At the end of 2019, I wrote down my Sustainability Goals for the year, and proceeded to do an update on those goals a few months later. In the past few months of quarantine, I have done a very deep dive into minimalism and zero-waste videos on YouTube. I have learned about sustainable & ethical brands, making your own shampoo, and alternatives to deodorant. The quote that I keep reading and coming back to is…
“We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” — Anne Marie Bonneau @ Zero Waste Chef
I really like this idea because personally I don’t think consumption is a horrible thing. Buying things is fun and there are so many things I’ve bought in the past that have given me both instant gratification and long term gratification. Before buying anything, I generally ask myself: “Do I like it?” and “Do I really need it?”. Generally, these two questions are enough to prevent me from buying something unnecessary.
To be frank, when it comes to clothing, I don’t think I will ever be able to buy fully sustainable, recyclable and ethical clothing. As of right now, it is simply too expensive, and the options are too narrow and bland for my personal taste. To compromise, I hope to either buy high quality clothing that will last me longer, or shop second hand!
The other type of consumption that I have become more aware of is my digital consumption. I spend a lot of time on my computer and phone, especially when I am locked up in my house for most of the day. From apps to videos to articles, there is so much media to be consumed! On one hand, it is super exciting, with an endless array of information at my fingertips. On the other hand, it is completely overwhelming. Just like how in the physical world, a lot of waste is created from buying cheap products, I think a similar “digital waste” is created from this digital world of consumption.
Similar to how fast fashion creates pieces of clothing for cheaper prices, the internet churns out plenty of “fast articles/apps/videos”. They are generally quick to read/watch/use, but are not a product of research or critical thinking. I have found that some of these products are shared so frequently around the internet, and create unnecessary fear and anxiety.
As someone who is going into the field of design, I am really excited to be able to design better products. I think there should be a lot of thinking done before putting more stuff into the world. Asking questions like “Do people really need this?”, “Is this actually helping people?” are crucial in this process. I really hope that this next generation of developers, designers, consultants and creators is just as excited about creating things with intention, and working for companies that believe in the same values that they do as individuals.