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Every year since I was a little kid I looked forward to Christmas as the most exciting day of the year. I remember sleepless nights on Christmas Eve, and waking up in the morning to the euphoria of wrapped gifts under the neon light of the tree. My feelings are shared by children all over the world.
It is a curious but understandable phenomenon that the first thought that comes to mind when one envisions “Christmas” is a pile of brand-new, freshly wrapped pile of things. However, the spirit of Christmas—or so we are told—is based on enjoying ourselves, spending time with family, and indulging in the “holiday festivities.” But these holiday festivities have transformed into a time when we expect and crave the acquisition of material possessions.
What I was experiencing on those sleepless Christmas nights is what I like to call “The Buzz,” and it’s easy to find.
You might find yourself in a grocery store when a sugary drink catches your eye. Suddenly you’ll feel an intense desire to have it. You’ll want to have it in your hand, put it in your cart, and drink it. Often I find myself having a little argument with myself, the tiny voice in my head trying to tell me that no, that drink isn’t worth your money. It tells me that it will be a ten second period of euphoria followed by a few minutes of guilt. I know all of this, even when I take the drink and put it in my cart.
The buying doesn’t really register; our minds don’t recognize the impulsive behavior that goes along with the purchase. What’s four dollars, anyways? But those four dollars add up over time, and eventually a drink two times every week will turn into an exorbitant amount of money. If you bought that drink two times every week for a decade, your grand total would be over four thousand dollars. And that’s only for one drink.
My mind, and I think all of our minds, blots out the logical reasoning side with The Buzz. It knows that there isn’t an excuse for buying it, except that life is short and we should enjoy ourselves.
I’ve just been consciously noticing about myself that I buy things that I don’t need all the time. Sometimes it’s something small, like a water bottle. Other times there are larger things, like new headphones that were inexplicably expensive that I don’t quite remember how I justified the purchase.
The Buzz is a very dangerous thing. I look around and see examples of it all the time, and how it has spread into our society—children begging their parents for a piece of candy, a friend hovering over the “add to cart” button on a webpage, etc.
But what makes it the most dangerous is the fact that our economy runs on The Buzz, and therefore, our society has made impulse spending socially acceptable and even encouraged. I’ve heard my friends tell other friends to let themselves enjoy life a little when thinking about a purchase, and we as a society think that people who save their money are cheap and probably can’t afford to buy a lot of extra luxury items.
When your friends tell you to enjoy life a little, they are trying to justify their own spending habits by making themselves feel like it’s the right thing to do.
So many people are under its rule that crumbling to The Buzz is the norm, and spending money is now more attractive than keeping it. Think about two identical items, which are both in new condition. One of them costs $5 and one of them costs $9. Both of them, you know, will serve you in the exact same way. It might be a snow shovel or it might be paper for your printer. I think that most people in our society at this point in time would choose the $9 version, because of the brand name or simply justifying that because it has a higher price, it is a better product. This is exactly the kind of thinking that leads to less money to spend on what makes you happy.
There’s an underlying sense of not living your full life if you don’t spend your money on things you don’t need. Sure, there are justifiable ways to spend your money—you need to carefully think about and determine where your happiness/price exchange is.
Is the latest and greatest smartphone going to improve your life in a significant way? Even though you might justify that the increased speed or screen size will make you a more productive person, you need to realize what you actually use your phone for, and whether it will substantially improve your life. Probably not, but again, you need to set that line.
Many people have become enamored by consumerism, so they let The Buzz run through their mind like the drug that it is.
What people might associate with true happiness is the illusion of prosperity. We might buy the new smartphone, even though we know very well that we don’t need it or can’t afford it, as a status symbol, to make it appear to others that we are much happier than we actually are. We might sacrifice the happiness that we could find in other more worthwhile investments (vacation, home improvement, etc.) in order to portray a false sense of satisfaction to others. This creates a new generation of people who seek happiness in the latest smartphone or gadget as a result of others owning it.
One of the most dangerous things about The Buzz is that, because most people are already subject to its rule, you are one of the only ones who can control it. The economy runs on those who can’t control themselves, so the onus is yours to control what you do with your money. You must be a parent to your impulses, telling them to put back that piece of candy that they don’t—and you don’t—need, because you’re the only adult in a madhouse full of children.
We need to focus on what we have. We could develop our relationships with the beautiful humans that surround us, who can show us more about life and satisfaction than any possession. We could pass our time enjoying ourselves with a hobby, whether that be reading, piano, surfing, or anything else that isn’t on a screen. There are a myriad of things that are more effective and worthwhile than the fleeting satisfaction of buying items due to The Buzz.
Our satisfaction and happiness are not dictated by our possessions, regardless of what we’ve been programmed to believe.
The Buzz is based on a short-lived moment of euphoria that quickly wears off, like many addictive drugs, leaving us wanting for more, never being satisfied. We need to be aware of this fleeting satisfaction and understand the effects of choosing to give into The Buzz, both on ourselves and the economy. By practicing awareness of The Buzz, we can recognize it and choose to indulge in it, or decide to spend our time and resources somewhere else that may be much more worthwhile than mindless consumerism.
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