Do Possessions Define Us? (OPINION)
September 22, 2020
Self expression has been prevalent throughout history, dating back to 115,000 years ago with jewelry made with seashells and today with outfits, hair and makeup. A large factor of the human spirit is labelling one’s identity and purpose, but are we letting our livelihoods be categorized by possessions? And is this phenomenon ours to blame?
To begin this, materialism can expand more than just physical objects and includes social hierarchy, fame and power. These are superficial concepts that reveal little insight as much as they may portray. Yet, this does not stop marketing towards teenagers and adults to strive for symbols of accomplishments, riches and diamonds. The results of this include consumerism.
The concept of consumerism was first acknowledged in Europe during the late 1600s. A constant crave and need perpetuated by Capitalist ideals has seeped into our culture, where excessively purchasing products and accessories is normalized. Examples include Black Friday shopping, Halloween, Christmas, St. Patrick’s day and more. Many of these examples are religious or cultural days of celebration, but to ignore that they have been exploited for marketing is a large statement to make.
I’m done Christmas shopping.
Or I WAS.
Until my kids talked to a mall Santa.
— Sara Says Stop (@PetrickSara) December 16, 2017
To drive this point further in, the average shopper spends around $1121 on holiday gifts and more money is spent on accessories than tuition. As dystopian as this may sound, there have been deaths and injuries during Black Friday shopping, with customers dog-piling over items. A culture of gift giving equating to compassion makes it inevitable to portray love and empathy without the expectations of gifts attached.
Although gift giving seems to be an obvious form of communication through material possessions, this notion is implemented in the smallest parts of daily life. With the rise of Tiktok, the app has pushed onto young teenagers that VSCO girls are normal and ‘alt’ is a form of rebellion to normal standards.
A few qualities that allow for the label alt include, alternative fashion (such as indie, emo, goth, etc.), alternative music and left political stances. The qualities that allow for the VSCO girl label include polka shell necklaces, baggy T-shirts, messy buns and running shorts. Even though both groups use the same app and have similar interests (fashion), both of these groups form an identity around material possessions and view themselves as polar opposites because of their choices in clothing.
Sofia Bailey (‘24) says, “I think of Alt v.s. Normal Tiktok as a petty fight for validation, when it comes down to it’s not that important. Most of it is material stuff like clothes and more, I couldn’t really care for it.”
While Sofia Bailey doesn’t have much of an attachment, why do others care much more?
Senior Asha Sneed remarks, “I believe people care more about this type of stuff because of the age they’re at. Most people who use Tiktok are around 12-18 so most of them want to find themselves more.”
Being swept up in a sea of labels and media is normal and expected, avoiding these terms and conversations will be inevitable, but material possessions are not of any importance or will adhere to any closure when searching for an identity. Spending time getting to know your peers and loved ones for who they are and not how they define themselves will provide more depth and truth when searching for yourself.