Do you sometimes snack mindlessly on mediocre food? Buy clothes that don’t really fit? Binge-watch TV shows when you really need sleep?
You’re not alone. Our culture has become almost fanatically centered on consumption of all types, and it’s affecting our health, happiness, and well-being.
“The average person now consumes twice as much as 50 years ago,” notes Annie Leonard, whose 2007 documentary, The Story of Stuff, tracked the cycle of commodities from production to disposal. In our grandparents’ day, she says, “stewardship and resourcefulness and thrift were valued.”
Our propensity for consumption began after World War II, Leonard explains, when the United States ramped up its production of consumer goods to rebuild the economy. Along the way, new advertising strategies tied emotion to consumption, promising happiness with certain products and emptiness without them. This soap will make your skin glow! This coffee will make your spouse love you! This lawnmower will make your neighbors jealous!