If a pandemic won't slow down the rampant consumerism and a shopping addicted society, will anything?
I am a manager at Silvercity London, the movie theatre connected to Masonville Mall. Since we reopened post lockdown numero uno in the summer, day-in, and day-out I have been stationed at the front door greeting guests and collecting their contact info as they enter the cinema. Between the oh so few guests that come in are large bouts of time where I have the opportunity to do nothing but stare into the parking lot and twiddle my thumbs. For many months there were very few vehicles consistently parked in the parking lot. I could count on my hand the number of cars in the parking lot that didn’t belong to coworkers and mall employees, but since the day after Halloween, like the flip of a switch, I noticed something peculiar. I noticed the parking lot to the mall that sat essentially empty for months, chock-full of cars, and the mall filled to the brim with people despite the pervasive and deadly pandemic that has shown no signs of slowing down.
At first I was surprised, and then I wasn’t. It was naive of me to think that a pandemic would slow down the rampant consumerism that ails modern society. Our economy depends on it, and we are conditioned to want more all the time, and corporations just dial it way up around the Holidays -- especially this year. Whether people celebrate a Holiday in December or not, the turn of the new year that businesses were prepping for nearly an entire year before convinces consumers to buy. Sales signs bleed red to get rid of the old stuff to make room for the new stuff, and attract droves of customers through the store to buy things whether they need, or even want the things in the first place.
I’ve been incredibly fascinated with the concept of minimalism since highschool, and although I find the movement has been co-opted by brands as an aesthetic to sell more expensive ‘higher quality’ commodities, I try my best to be grateful for the material goods I already have and don’t buy anything unless I need it. I am however, not impervious to the allure consumerism. I am exposed to ads and watch commercials, and internalize the products placed for use by my favourite television and movie characters, but I have trained myself to avoid impulse spending. I know whatever I buy will make me happy for a fleeting moment, and then I'll be back to a state of general equilibrium. This is called Hedonic adaptation, and it’s true for everyone.
Those same chemicals released in our brain that make us happy for those fleeting moments can be replicated through other things, and in a greater quantity. Giving creates the same feeling, and it could benefit somebody with less. And so does spending money where it can make a larger difference, and sharing a meal with your loved ones or friends. It’s absolutely okay to buy things. It’s important for the economy, but take into account what good the things you buy will bring beyond your own immediate gratification. Think about how much more power your dollar has if you aren’t feeding corporations. Instead of shopping at the mall this year, shop around small businesses, and shop for others less fortunate than you, and buy things like gift cards to restaurants and small businesses struggling.
Don’t shop mall, shop small.