Materialism Versus Happiness: Opinion Essay

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We all want to be happy and cope with the struggles life throws at us. But one of the main ways of finding temporary happiness are turning to materialistic objects, which can impact our true happiness. Materialism can lead to an individual to become selfish, the feeling of hopelessness, and lead to more serious struggles such as debt and the act of separating one’s self from loved ones. We all turn to materialistic objects as a way of having power and to find acceptance for who we are but fail to see the damage these objects can have on our lives. So, are we a too materialistic society and is it impacting our interpretation of happiness?

When we see something that we really like, we tell ourselves we need it and cannot live without it. The temptation gets the best of us and we buy the object. But we fail to see that buying these things will only bring us temporary joy and happiness. According to an article, “Science Says: Materialism Might Make You a Bad Person.” by Amanda Oliver, a 2012 study that was published on by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, people who own luxury cars are more likely to fail yielding to pedestrians on crosswalks. In addition to the study, it was also found that wealthier individuals are more likely to cheat and act more reckless in situations such as driving. “Seventy-five percent of the families involved in the study couldn’t park their cars in their garages because they were too filled with things, homes with yards were rarely used, and most of the families relied heavily on convenience foods like frozen meals and pre-baked bread, despite saving only 10 or so minutes per meal in doing so.” (Oliver 8) We become blinded by all the things we own and buy that we refuse to do things for ourselves, such as cooking our own meals at home. “In 1998, Graham and his business partner sold Sitewerks for more money than either of them expected to earn in a lifetime. To celebrate, Hill bought a four-story, 3,600-square foot home in a trendy Seattle neighborhood. He then began to fill the house and make other expensive purchases, like an additional apartment in New York City. In Graham’s own words: “My success and the things it bought quickly changed from novel to normal. Soon I was numb to it all. The new Nokia phone didn’t excite me or satisfy me. It didn’t take long before I started to wonder why my theoretically upgraded life didn’t feel any better and why I felt more anxious than before.” (Oliver 10) Graham’s quote is a great way of expressing that no matter how much money an individual has to spend and afford expensive purchases, that doing so does not always bring happiness.

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As Carey Goldberg stated in her article, “Materialism is Bad for You”, “Studies show that poor people who emphasize materialistic goals are especially likely to be unhappy, while in some studies, materialistic rich people show fewer ill effects, presumably because they are meeting more of their goals. But even for the better-off, materialism can create a nagging appetite that can never be satisfied.” (Goldberg 11) Upon agreeing with Goldberg’s statement, those who are better-off than those who are unfortunately less fortunate, are not guaranteed to be happier than the lower to middle class individuals. Chasing after the wrong goals in life can also lead to an individual acting wrongly as they try to achieve the goal, which can then result in severe struggling later in the future.

Compulsive buying can lead to depression, anxiety, broken relationships and can be harmful socially and to one’s self. The shopping bags and piles upon piles of expensive designer clothing is not only to show off, but to feel complete. Loneliness leads to compulsive and destructive behaviors such as hoarding unnecessary objects and over charging credit cards and struggling to pay back debt. George Monbiot expressed in his article, “Materialism: A System That Eats Us from the Inside Out.”, “Research, studied 2,500 people for six years. It found a two-way relationship between materialism and loneliness: materialism fosters social isolation; isolation fosters materialism. People who are cut off from others attach themselves to possessions. This attachment in turn crowds out social relationships.” (Monbiot 9) Loneliness can cause an individual’s mental state to falter, leading to destructive and abnormal actions such as hoarding. Individuals who break themselves away from the rest of society are most likely to struggle in the future and relying heavily on possessions. According to a research that was conducted and posted in Carolyn Gregoire’s article, “The Psychology Of Materialism, And Why It’s Making You Unhappy.”, “According to a study published in the Journal Of Couple & Marriage Therapy, materialism is actually correlated with unhappiness in marriages.” (Gregoire 12) Just as money cannot buy you happiness, money cannot buy you love as well.

Materialism is also known to cause an individual’s personality to alter, which can result in narcissism. ‘Thus it was not surprising to find that students with strong materialistic tendencies scored high on a standard measure of narcissism, agreeing with statements such as ‘I am more capable than other people’ … ‘I wish somebody would write my biography someday.” (Gregoire 14) This quote states how narcissists tend to express selfishness and act as if they are incapable of taking care of their own needs. Individuals who are better-off tend to express laziness, using their money to pay others to do the work for them. Some examples such as cleaning a home themselves, cooking meals, and managing and taking care of yard work. Those who, by society, have easier lives are more likely to look down on the rest of the society which is mainly made up of middle-class working individuals.

Materialistic objects can be as small as a smartphone or as big as a car, price ranges able to be low or high. But those who rely on materialistic objects for happiness are more likely to have trouble functioning correctly in society. Materialism has become an everyday trend in our society and is something that has increasingly worsened over the years. Celestine Chua stated in her article, “Materialism Breeds Unhappiness.”, “Material possessions have turned into symbols of hope and joy. However, these symbols are no more than just artificial creations by people.” To us we see these objects as symbols of hope and a reason to live, but only because we say they do. A car may make you temporarily happy, but it will not make you happier in life. Materialistic objects do not guarantee happiness, but those that depend on these objects do not see them this way. We see that these items will improve the quality of the life we are living and that they will make all our troubles go away, but realistically, they will not do anything. But only give us temporary happiness.

So, are we a too materialistic society and is it impacting our interpretation of happiness? There is no solid answer whether materialistic objects truly bring us happiness and joy in our lives, but every individual in our society has at one point in their lives, depended on and object for happiness. Today we have become very dependent on our smartphones, none of us leaving our homes without it. Smartphones ensure us with a feeling of security and safety, along with applications such as social media where we can post about our lives and show off all the items, we have spent our money on. Materialism has become worse over the years, our society showing more characteristics such as narcissism and selfishness. But the wanting to be successful and better-off is a goal we all want to fulfill in our lives.


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