• Tuesday, Nov 12, 2019
  • Last Update : 01:41 am

Fear induced modern consumerism

  • Published at 05:15 pm April 28th, 2019
Modern consumerism_April 27, 2019_Pg 9 (1)
Photo: Bigstock

Digital device: a basic idea

Bryant McGill, a human potential thought leader, international bestselling author, activist, and social entrepreneur, says in his book Voice of Reason, “In consumer life we become what we consume - disposable junk to be used and thrown away.”  

Living in a modern world full of digital devices and exposure to all sorts of information that World Wide Web carries, we often forget how to live life as it should be. We often forget to earth ourselves with others in the most natural way possible. And our dependency on digital devices is actually quite harmful to our own wellbeing.  What’s slowly fading is peace and tranquility within the connections amongst ourselves and with others in much more meaningful ways, as we live through digital screens.  And we often forget this because digital devices serve our reward system in a far greater way than a normal meaningful conversation, upfront. We are clearly contradicting what we desire, as each one of us is striving for that meaningful connection but instead we are becoming puppets of digital device.

Back in the day, when internet was not widely popular, its use was specific, which was sharing information for the purpose of learning. Internet was a mesh created to share academic research information between universities and government. Although many have found dependency of www to be positive in their lives, they don’t seem to understand how these devices carry curated information that affects our minds and livelihood. There is an underlying factor often unseen that governs how we react to certain information and how this information changes our behaviour in many different ways. One of the vital signs is consuming the unnecessary. Modern science has discovered a clear relationship between fear and consumption- acknowledging this is just the start. 

Fear leads to consumption. It can be any sort of fear. Fear of being left out from a peer group is fear of missing out, or FOMO. The term newly coined by a YouTuber Casey Neistat in one of his recent YouTube videos, where he explained swiping through the noise of Facebook and Instagram for hours, is something we all should consider harmful.

Fear of getting excluded is one form of fear that psychologists and neuroscientists are studying every day. As digital media and digital devices are becoming our staple needs, we constantly seek inclusion and acceptance. We seek to be included to our peers. But when we don’t receive such inclusivity, we experience acute depression, social anxiety and many other forms of short-term mental illnesses. Short term may sound like we are safe, but it can flip any day, causing long-term ailment. One of the many symptoms of depression and social anxiety is willingness to consume (almost anything from material to services) more than necessary. And this has become proverbial in the realm of medical science, predicting that in the next two decades, cases of depression and anxiety leading to formidable diseases will be widely common all over the world. 

So, what is this fear that these scientists are talking about? How does it lead to consuming goods and services that we don’t actually need? 

The very basic step to understanding fear starts from understanding how our brains work. Simply put, our association with the brain is deeply rooted to our senses, namely our eyes and ears. We use these senses to put more emphasis on things we can relate to and things we don’t relate to. We all have a certain level of curiosity. Some may have more than others, but it’s generally present in our conscious. Digital devices keep our curiosity on the clock. Information of any sort that ignites fear in us can disrupt our brain’s chemistry, depending on the longevity of exposure. And the exponential rate of digital dependency in the last five years clearly indicates its reason, that we have arrived somewhere by relentlessly putting hours swiping up and down, left and right. 

Having said that, we all know a vast amount of information is curated and is widely present in our web world. But, we don’t put our thoughts on questions like why am I being fed this news or why this is relevant for me to know. Thus comes the culture of inducing fear through digital devices. 

As we swipe and slide through our devices, we find some information is just blunt and unnecessary. Wars in the Middle East that will never end, Donald Trump and his nonsensical governance, crimes all around the country, fires burning buildings and homes ignites sparks inside our amygdala at a slightly unconscious level, without even signaling how the information affects us. In a world where hopelessness floats around so easily, fear takes up our brain as we run through our digital devices affecting us in a subliminal way.

Fear of not being included can cause disharmony in our brain chemistry. Fear of losing a person we care for can also cause disharmony. Fear in general causes disharmony. But what’s shocking is how digital devices can or may control our sense of fear through manipulating information as we swipe through e-media and, thus, turning us into a prey for corporations who control the overall economy.

It’s not abnormal to have certain phobias. Nobody is perfect. A person CAN have a phobia that doesn’t distress day to day livelihood. But when it comes to a fear that is controlled by social, political and corporation’s agenda, our amygdala (the inner part of our brain that reacts to fear and emotion) experiences a constant dissonance that translates to “anything might happen which may disharmonize our normality”; thus, we become prone towards consuming the “good life” by buying materials and services that are often unnecessary. And it feels good to own, as ownership gives us comfort.

Modern day consumerism starts with fear, and as obnoxious as it sounds, we have all given enough to support this viscous agenda. Our dependency on digital devices has given way to e-commerce, e-news, e-books, e-lies that we feed off of and this normality has hidden an ugly truth: that we are getting sucked up inside capitalism in its best form. What is real seems like a distant planet that never shows up in the night sky. Our lenses have changed without even giving us the slightest scope to understand what was coming, as we are made to “Agree to The Terms and Conditions” while installing all those applications.

Stressful news of crime, murder, terrorism, and fascism is exposed to us every day via digital devices. And we learn to empathize with these issues by soaking them in for hours and hours, without knowing how our impulses and conscious are getting affected.  The moderation of useless information is madly uncanny and unjust, as we are bombarded with curated information that serves a purpose. Yes, your friend posting a picture of a perfect meal does suffice for the term curated information. Slightly unnecessary, but the picture serves a purpose - consumerism.

I wouldn’t be surprised if there was another fire in an office building and, a few days later, thousands of people rushed into Burger King to lower their depression without even acknowledging how acute their symptoms were and how ignorant we all have become. Because we have agreed to stay afloat on the same boat as we are mammals entangled in need for acceptance and inclusion. 

“A person needs ideas in order to survive. A person whom ascribes to a philosophy for living and is dedicated to constant learning will find that ordinary life is enough without living in a zone of consumer consumption and media devices.”  ― Kilroy J. Oldster, Dead Toad Scrolls