Negative effects of modern consumer culture


Photo Illustration by Kunal Pandit

In classrooms all over campus, Apple laptops are incredibly popular. Apple is an example of a company that holds onto a large fan-base although they raise product prices with minimal innovation.

In modern society, big technology companies like Apple, Google, Netflix and Facebook have revolutionized the way consumers react and behave toward new products. Modern consumerism isn’t inherently bad, but its effects have a negative impact on the modern society overall.

As consumers, it makes sense for us to want the highest quality product for our money. But it turns out that many prefer a product, service or platform for its brand name because we see these material things as indicators of social status.

Social media applications like Instagram and Snapchat advertise many products to the public through their mediums and heavily influence. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a new feature that has revolutionized the way companies like Facebook and Google advertise their services to users. SEO is the process by which the Google search engine maximizes the number of visitors to a particular site by make the site appear higher on the list of relevant sources for a certain topic.

Apple, for example, purposefully increases and inflates the prices of its products as a sign of the quality of the product. Through clever marketing, Apple and many other tech companies have created a correlation in the consumer’s mind that the social status of a consumer depends on the cost and brand of his devices. This has caused a society where only looks really matter. Some may argue that this is positive as quality is considered in priority over price, but the materialistic greed is a negative impact of the marketing towards social status.

The attachment of a material item to social status is by no means new, but like all concepts it is evolving and growing in every era. Producers pump out new products at an alarming rate these days. One can expect a new phone from nearly every manufacturer every year, and to many, these items are simply must-haves. However, it is important to evaluate how different these products actually are. Are we purchasing the newest phone for a significant upgrade we need, or because it is new? There are legitimate cases of both.

“I think nowadays, social media definitely impacts what students want to buy , [and they can also be] really be influenced by what celebrities think… it can also be on TV or in a newspaper,” school psychologist Chad Ablang said.

In recent years, technology has experienced exponential growth through the efforts of technology giants. Although this has completely revolutionized the consumer market, companies have taken the advantage of their consumers by creating products that aren’t very innovative, but that are “new.”

This concept of “new” being innovative was created by marketing teams to lure consumers into needlessly buying products that have very little innovation. Because of good reviews from previous products like the iPhone series from Apple, consumers are convinced into buying the newest type of the product such as the iPhone 6S, simply because of the branding. The iPhone 6S is still essentially the same phone as the iPhone 6, only with minor updates. Clever marketing strategies, however, convince consumers that “the only thing has changed is everything,” in response to the former claim that nothing significant has been altered.

The new type of consumerism has created a generation of consumers who spend too much time looking at the brand and getting caught up in trends that they lose sight of the real innovations that can change society for the better. Companies, knowing what consumers want, are more motivated to appease the demand, and thus creates a never-ending cycle than doesn’t benefit the overall good of society in any way.

But there are ways to turn this consumerism into a positive aspect of our society. Look beyond the obvious, the ads that are right there in your face all the time. Strive to really understand the value behind products you buy — and then you’ll really be more than just a statistic for a company to analyze.