It’s the age-old question recently revisited by a new generation- can money really buy you happiness?
We’ve all heard the stories of people winning the lottery, launching themselves into the magical millions. Then, a year or two later they appear on our screens again claiming that they’re ‘running on empty’, broke and wishing that they never won in the first place; that the money ruined their lives. When you investigate how and where they spent their fortune, it’s amazing to see how many materialistic items people immediately snatch up. Like does anyone really need a quad bike? It’s debatable.
It would be silly to say that money can’t bring you happiness, but after your basic needs are met does it really make you that much happier? There’s a seemingly logical assumption that most people make when choosing to spend their money on an item, and I am definitely guilty of such a thought. The idea that a ‘physical object will last longer… it will make us happier for a longer time than a one-off experience’. According to recent research this is completely inaccurate, but deep down I think we all knew this.
Dr Thomas Gilovich, a psychology professor at Cornell University, has been investigating this very theory he says, “…we buy things to make us happy, and we succeed. But only for a while. New things are exciting to us at first, but then we adapt to them. It fades into the background and become part of the new normal. Therefore, happiness from material purchases diminishes over time, experiences on the other hand become an ingrained part of our identity”. As Gilovich puts it, “our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods”.
You’re allowed to really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you.
In contrast however, your experiences are part of you and we are the sum total of our experiences. Because shared experiences connect us more to other people than shared consumption. As Jay Cassano from the Fast Company whom talks about the science behind spending money on experiences said ‘ You are more likely to feel connected to someone that you went on holiday with than someone whom has bought a 4K TV’, but that 4K tv though?!. By consuming collective experiences together provide us with more happiness even after they’re gone, they’re part of the stories we tell to one another.
Despite experiences being the better of choice, it’s this idea of instant gratification and ‘the desire to experience pleasure or fulfilment without delay or deferment’. The concept of when you want it, you want it now is basically ruling many people’s lives. We already know that material things wont bring us happiness, but why do we continue to buy into it? Is it status, a perception of worth?
When you think globally at the notion of want VS need, can we really not blame the society in which we have grown up within? With all the new technology developments circulating towards us, could our materialistic tendencies be due to social conditioning?
Social conditioning is ‘the process of training individuals in society to have certain beliefs, behaviours, desires and emotional reactions, which are approved by society in general or by certain groups within it’. It often works by rewarding certain behaviours, thus reinforcing them and pushing other behaviours out. The society we live in today encourages blind consumerism and materialism. As Tyler Durden from the movie Fight Club puts it “Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need.” A prime example of this would be the hype surrounding Apple launching a new IPhone every October. I know I am a sucker for seeing a new IPhone and being like I need this…the apple key not speaker says I need it ..I NEED IT.
Research from Cornell University shows millennials are tempted to make many of their purchases from society’s influence, which makes things like diamond watches and gold chains not only super expensive, but appealing and trendy as well. A prime example of this would be the Kylie Jenner lip kits and the Kanye West Adidas collaboration sneakers. We are just as much a product of our society as the shiny, expensive gifts and toys we exchange on a daily basis, if not more.
I guess we have to stop using the phrase ‘treat yo self’ so loosely and treat our self by saving for future experiences in life which we all know will make us much happier in the end. Frist step in doing this is to stop being swept up by what others have as no amount of excessive expenditure is going to make us happier. Unless we win the lottery.. than that’s another story.. I promise to use the money more wisely…do you?.