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The Consumption Trap: Seeking Happiness in a Hyperstimulated World

Overconsumption and the search for happiness are two concepts that are often intertwined in contemporary society. However, the underlying question is whether they are really united effectively. To better understand this relationship, it is necessary to look to the past and analyze how these phenomena have developed over time.

The 1920s in the United States, known as the "Roaring Twenties," emerged as ground zero for a kind of consumerist pandemic. After World War I, the American economy experienced an unprecedented boom, and encouraging consumption was seen as a way to promote economic progress. Technological advances and industrialization allowed more goods to be manufactured in less time and with less human labor, leading to greater availability of products and a booming consumer culture. Advertising played a crucial role, convincing the population that consumption was not only desirable, but necessary for personal success and happiness.

"...Encouraging consumption was seen as a way to promote economic progress."

In contrast, today we find ourselves facing a confused and hyperstimulated society, where the promises of happiness through consumption have left us dissatisfied. Instead of finding joy in meaningful relationships and experiences, many people seek material satisfaction. This phenomenon is exacerbated by the omnipresence of screens and social networks, which bombard us with constant advertising. Real human interactions have been reduced, and we have become slaves to advertising that sneaks subtly (or sometimes not so subtly) into our digital lives.

As Abraham Maslow pointed out in his theory of the hierarchy of needs , as people meet their basic needs, they seek motivation in other, higher goals, such as rewarding social relationships and the development of their abilities. This process of searching for self-realization and true happiness seems to be in conflict with the consumerist narrative. Advertising, however, has evolved to convince us that the purchase of goods is the means to achieve the happiness we long for. Thus, a cycle of desire and consumption is perpetuated that rarely leads to lasting satisfaction.

Observations of previous generations reveal a different perspective on needs and happiness. My grandmother often says that, with a single salary, a house could cover the needs of the entire family. It is not that we promote a return to that patriarchal model, but it is illustrative to note that now, even with two salaries, many families feel that they do not have enough. The needs have increased exponentially: the son wants the latest PlayStation, the mother the latest Zara model, and the daughter is determined to travel to Bali like her friends. My grandmother, on the other hand, had two pairs of shoes and they were enough for the next few years.

Chronic dissatisfaction is a phenomenon that has been exacerbated in the modern era. Despite technological advances and the abundance of goods available, many people feel an emotional and spiritual emptiness. This void is not filled with more products, but often deepens, creating a cycle of desire and disappointment. Hyperstimulation, especially through social media and advertising, fuels this cycle. We are constantly bombarded with images and messages that tell us that we need more to be happy, that the next purchase will be the one that finally fulfills us.

This dissatisfaction also has a significant environmental and social impact. Excessive consumption leads to overproduction, which in turn contributes to the depletion of natural resources and pollution. Additionally, the constant search for new possessions can create a culture of competition and comparison, where a person's worth is measured by what they own rather than who they are.

We are constantly bombarded with images and messages that tell us that we need more to be happy, that the next purchase will be the one that finally fulfills us.

To break this cycle, it is crucial to reevaluate our priorities. Happiness and lasting satisfaction are not found in the accumulation of material goods, but in the experiences and relationships that enrich our lives. Psychological studies have shown that meaningful relationships, personal development, and community connection are much deeper and longer-lasting sources of happiness.

Refocusing on human relationships means dedicating time and effort to cultivating authentic connections with family, friends, and community that we have sometimes become too lazy to create. These bonds not only provide emotional support, but they also help us feel connected and understood. Personal development, on the other hand, allows us to grow and reach our potential. This can include activities such as continuing education, volunteering, pursuing hobbies, and pursuing personal and professional goals that we are passionate about.

Adopting a more sustainable and conscious lifestyle does not mean giving up all modern comforts, but rather being more selective and aware of our consumption decisions. It involves valuing experiences and relationships more than material objects, and finding joy and satisfaction in simplicity and authenticity.

Now we just have to try, but not without asking ourselves if, as a society, are we willing to change our priorities and seek happiness in what really matters, or will we continue trapped in the insatiable cycle of consumption?

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