3/05/2010

03-05-10 - Consumerism Happiness

Sometimes when I'm depressed I'll go on foolish Amazon shopping sprees; I never buy frivolous things, mainly it's tools or hepa filters or shit like that, but it's things I don't really need which I imagine will somehow make my life better when I have them. It does in fact give you a small happiness boost when you get your new toy and unwrap it and play with it, but that is fleeting (and doing it too often kills it). BTW Amazon Prime is really fucking me up; I never used to shop online much, hell I never used to shop much at all, but now it's just so fast and cheap and easy I just go click click and the thing shows up. Theretically yes it is a "good deal" (in the sense that it saves me lots of time because I don't have to worry about what qualifies for Super Saver and I get my purchase quicker) but in reality it is a horrible deal because it changes your buying pattern so that you shop a lot more. Of course Amazon knows this which is why they push it so much, and I knew it too but thought I had the self control to not be suckered like all of you fools; well no, no I don't.

Anyway - while that sort of consumer happiness is empty and unfulfilling and short term and unproductive (much like the happiness of booze or sweets) - there is a type of consumer happiness that I believe is more profound : lusting for the unattainable super-desirable product.

In this form of happiness there is some wonderful product that you can't afford; you read about it, you put posters of it on your wall, you hang out on web forums and talk about it, you follow all the new version releases. You save and save and work hard and some day you buy one. That is happy times. Not because getting the product is so great, but the anticipation, and the hard work to get it. Having some goal, some desire, and working hard to get it, and finally acheiving it - that is one of the greatest true pleasures in life. I think people foolishly think that to be happy their goal needs to be something actually important, curing cancer or whatever, in fact that's not true at all - all that matters is you really want the goal and it takes hard work and a lot of time to get it.

I used to have this kind of happiness with computer parts when I was a kid, I lusted after a video toaster or that 24-bit card for my Amiga, I read about all kinds of products, I saved and eventually I got a DCTV and I was pretty delighted, but when you actually get your goal, the real fun is over and you have to find a new thing.

It's hard to have this kind of happiness anymore, because when you get old and mature you realize that all products are actually pretty fucking irrelevant to your quality of life (like, yeah, a proper HDTV would be nice and all, but I can watch TV on my old thing just fine) - so it's impossible to really get too excited about lusting after some product, and if I had to really work hard and save up to buy something, mmm meh I just wouldn't buy it.

There's a weird drawback to becoming enlightened about happiness. I now know that happiness comes only from inside myself, external circumstances are really irrelevant. You might think that's liberating, but it's actually very difficult to deal with, because you no longer incorrectly believe that external activities will somehow magically make you happy, it's hard to get excited about doing them, and yet you need to do them and you need to be excited about it, because happiness comes from your own excitement.

3 comments:

Autodidactic Asphyxiation said...

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/02/18/how-vacations-affect-your-happiness/

cbloom said...

Yeah, similar but not quite the same underlying cause.

Though for me planning vacations is a fucking nightmare. I hate the time between deciding to go somewhere and doing it, because I agonize constantly about where I should go, try to do more research, stress about the flights and travel problems, etc.

castano said...

I suppose you know about Alain De Botton's "Art of Travel" book, don't you? It has some interesting insights about the anticipations and disappointments usually associated with travel, but I found it less engaging than his other books.

old rants