The Dark Sides of Materialism in Our Society

By Vuthy Pisey,
Photo from Pxhere

As society has become modern with advanced technology and a booming economy, people have more choices and abilities to buy the products or possessions they want and need. Initially, the basic need of purchasing or owning something was to make life easier, simpler and more comfortable. However, little do people know that the expensive, branded and high-tech materials they own seem to define everything in their life, from who they will be associated with to how they lead their life.

Materialism refers to a culture in which people value material possessions to differentiate themselves from other people’s status and well-being in society.  Simply put, in our materialistic society nowadays, people would rather look at material possessions to judge or value other people than their inner beauty, personality and goodness.

For example, a teenager who owns a branded iPhone will be considered as rich and superior, and can easily make friends with other teenagers compared to someone who doesn’t own any high-tech tools. A man who owns an expensive car and accessories will be viewed as capable, impressive and reliable to the bride’s parents. A woman who wears a whole set of shining,  eye-catching jewelry, branded purse and well-tailored dress to a wedding will be viewed as rich, fortunate and socialized, compared to a normal woman who does not own any impressive branded items.

It is true that owning expensive and well-functioning possessions like a good car, branded clothing and accessories, a big house, etc., should be our pride and achievement after our hard work. They can maintain the status and position in society that we deserve to have. Nonetheless, if you let your possessions control you, materialism will bring you more harm than good in many ways.

1. Materialism blinds your judgment and value of  people

When you own an expensive item, you will add a great value to it and give it a lot of attention. The same thing applies to materialistic people who come into contact with you. They may associate themselves with you, but they do not see your value as a person, only the price tag of the materials you own.

Also, when you think that material possessions are more important than personality and character, you may miss out to build relationships with people who do not the same social status as you. If you no longer own expensive materials or you can no longer afford them, would you have a group of friends with a similar low social status? In addition, what would you do if it turns out that people who you think are rich only pretend to be? Wouldn’t being materialistic mean that you would cut ties with them and miss the chance to see the pureness of relationships and goodness of people?

© Frits Ahlefeldt/ 2011/ Public Domain

2. The desire to own expensive possessions comes with risks

When I was a junior high school student, I did not own any mobile phone. I walked to school because I did not think it was important or cool to have a motorbike. Surprisingly, nowadays, most high school students own at least one expensive mobile phone, and some even have a tablet. Many wear expensive accessories or jewelries and even have the latest motorbike models.

Families who are well-off can afford to provide such luxuries to their children, but how about families that are unable to afford them? If material possessions are all they care about, the parents will have to work very hard and might even be in debt to provide such luxuries to their children. Otherwise, the children might not go to school or even commit crimes for money to get what they want. When the kids grow up, they will value material things more than  people.

A common trend when people have luxury possessions, is they tend to show off their belongings on social media and act as if they are superior to everyone else.

However, doing so can get them into danger. Needless to say, teenagers who cannot wait to show off their friend  the brand new iPhone X or newly-launched Honda Dream 2018 that they bought are at risk. They are not aware of their actions and thus could end up getting robbed or even murdered.    

3. Being materialistic can cost you the happiness, you should deserve

So you have been working very hard and saved up enough money just to buy an iPhone 7 and a MacBook Pro, which you think can make you belong and fit in with a specific social group. You are satisfied with that and convinced that such a high price for your possessions is worth it.

And now? Apple has launched a new iPhone Xs with a premium quality and modern look you cannot ignore. Your friends have already purchased it. Would you torture yourself to save up again just for that new version of the phone? All the expensive brand products are always being updated to suit customers and market’s needs. Will you be able to keep up with the trend? How much longer do you want to spend your hard-earned money on these items?

If you don’t realize how being materialistic takes a toll on you, mentally and financially, you will forever be living with that pressure and stay a victim. In contrast, if you let go of your desire for things and focus on the quality of your friendships and the goodness of people, instead of what they own, you will be free from the pressure and find your happiness, pureness and simplicity of life.

Buy things you need, never to impress people. Otherwise, the happiness you get is will not be permanent. Again, materials or possessions are material things which you cannot bring with you when you die. And of course, they should not be the reason you are living for.  


Views expressed here are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of UNICEF.

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