THE SOCIOLOGIST’S THINKING: WHY YOU BUY WHAT YOU BUY EVEN WHEN YOU DON’T NEED THEM
Have you ever sat to think of the reasons why you continually ensure to catch up with the latest technological products? Why you buy foot wears that don’t fit your every day needs? And buy clothes you may only have to wear to just a party in a year? Answers to these questions are embedded in studies on consumer culture and behavior which sociologists have spent adequate efforts studying in over 20 years now
Attempting to discuss these things psychologically may not fully answer the question, it is not an individual problem i.e. not only you face such problem, everyone does which makes the sociologists interested. Having a tab + I phone+ laptop+ Android + blackberry and a small Nokia phone isn’t a big deal amongst Nigerian youth, neither is having a wardrobe full of clothes that is seldom worn nor items of no significance but beauty, even if they can’t afford what they own they go extra mile to get them.
The symbolic interactionist scholars led by Viera, believes buying is a way to prove one’s identity and keep a consistent picture of one’s self to others. You may buy a product just to make a social statement about whom you are and the group you belong to. E.g. members of a self professed rich gang may buy expensive product including those they don’t need just to prove that they are rich, another example that readily comes to mind are the Igbo men who spend flamboyantly on product and at parties just to prove that “they aren’t called chief for nothing”. This act, sociologists have named “conspicuous consumption” which means buying just to communicate social standings and status hence you might have bought that clothe you don’t need just to tell people that you are a fashionista or buy the gadgets you don’t need so people would know you are a technological freak.
The conflict scholars led by Marcuse believes that the capitalist society through marketing and adverts lures people (the poor working class) into believing and buying items they do not need as essential, this is done because the capitalist system survives on buying, selling and continuous production of consumables, essentials and luxuries. To keep up to this need the working class are made to see luxuries as essentials and to get them they have to continually be at work and the systems continues to exists. Put simply “you buy what you don’t need because you were made to think it is necessary to your existence and all this while you were lied to because the producer wants you to be at work” this is what the conflict scholars have called “false needs”. E.g. there have been increasing popularity of the hover board and there are corresponding adverts just to preach its environmental friendliness, energy saving and speed, all of these is just done to make the working class see that the hover board is not a luxury, it is essential and needed in our daily life. But underneath this advert is an attempt to stir your desire to keep u at work to look for more money.
Other scholars not found in the two mentioned continuum also posited different drivers of consumption e.g. Mc Craken proclaimed the “Diderot effect” which is believed to drive your consumption as you race to get your things matching each other e.g. Apple phone, Apple Laptop and all things Apple just to have your gadget matching. This means that you might have bought those foot wears you rarely wear because you want them matching with one clothe in the ward robe. Veblein also claimed that people consume because of the inherent competitive nature of human being i.e. people buy things just to prove that they are better and richer than their neighbors, take for instance, ask yourself how do you feel when your neighbor or friend buys a better or bigger item than yours? Veblein holds we would be moved to moved into a competition and ours becomes undervalued and we feel like replacing them with one better than that of our friends.
Conclusively, attempting to understand why you buy what you buy is best understood when you see all above mentioned as interplay and not an isolation of each other, understanding consumer culture would teach you to control your desires and properly channel your resources into what’s needful.
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