Ahh, stuff… some of us have a little, some of us have a lot. But, for better and for worse, most of us spend too much time (and money) thinking about stuff. Regardless of your current financial situation, you want more and more of them. But not cheap knockoffs which you can buy from the local thrift store. You want luxury items that can help you complete your gangsta look and make other people like you more.
Don’t know about you, but the conversations around me tend to gravitate around stuff. Always. All the time. It’s like a never-ending commercial break. I hate it.
“Hey, did you see the new iPhone. It has a new camera?” Or “Nike just launched their Jesus Shoes. It’s like you’re walking on water.” Or “I just bought a new car. I’m awesome.”
On the outside, I appear to care about people’s possessions because I’m such a nice guy (wink). But on the inside, I couldn’t care less. What I’m more interested in is the process. The motives behind people’s desire to get more and more stuff. Why it never ends? Why people constantly look to buy more stuff? Who the f**k really needs faster face unlocking or a fourth camera on the back of the phone?
But not only that. Why people constantly seek to upgrade their things and get the most lavish, pricey, extravagant merch from the shelves?
No matter where I look, or who I speak with, people are always trying to get their hands on the most expensive luxury items out there. Even if they lack the money, the majority of the population prefers getting something really expensive than the cheaper alternative which on a lot of occasions is way better than the “original” product.
If you really think about it, there is nothing really special about the new iPhone or the newest Gucci collection. At least not things you absolutely need. I mean, you can surely survive in the wilderness without the latest phone or the newest Gucci belt. And if you don’t keep an eye on your bills you’ll surely end up there. Roaming the streets wearing the latest fashion gear but with no place to live because the bank confiscated your home for not paying your bills. But let’s not go there right now.
Apparently there is a group of people – most of us – who can’t imagine not getting the newest, coolest things. But the new extra included features are not the main reason they hit the big buy button, get rid of their “old” phone and get the newest. For these folks – again, most of us – the extra pixels or the new colors are not so important. There is something else making the majority of the people around the world spend their hard-earned cash on bizarre, new STUFF.
It appears, that the reason people hate cheap things and throw cash on expensive ones has far more to do with their inner desires – and insecurities – and far less to do with the functions this new item has to offer.
So, if you too are interested in figuring out why a large portion of your salary evaporates and transforms into stuff you don’t really need. Or, you simply want to understand the reason why people hate cheap knockoffs, this post is for you.
I hope it will help you spend more time on things that really matter and less resources for fancy, shiny objects that don’t serve any real purpose in your life.
Why We Consider Cheap Things Unworthy?
To answer this question we need to get back at least two centuries ago.
For most of human history, everything had to be made by hand. China’s cheap labor and international shipping were both still in the making. In order to create a leather coat or a sword in the 17th century, and before that, hundreds of working hours had to be contributed to this item alone. I know. It was painful. And shipping wasn’t included. You had to actually walk to the shop on foot to take your new fancy sword so you can slay bandits.
Along with that, the goods required to produce items, in general, were rare and came with high transportation fees simply because there weren’t enough ships to transport goods. Or in other words, handmade stuff was simply the norm, not an extravagant fad of the rich.
For centuries people knew that when the price for a particular product was high the item was better than the rest. The correlation between price and value was obvious and unquestionable. There was simply no other way to produce high-quality goods.
But then something happened. The industrial revolution came along and factories emerged all around the world. People learned how to strategize. They adopted new methods of organizing the labor, the shipping, and the whole way they view production. Managers and supervisors were hired to keep track of the quality of the goods and ensure that more stuff are produced in less time. Transportation improved thanks to the new technologies and the overseas shipping cost plummeted.
All these innovations made thousands of stuff that were previously only purchasable by celebrities, now available for the masses.
And while this is a good thing because we can now all afford a toaster and a dishwasher, these technological advancements robed the excitement of getting something – at least getting something that’s cheap.
Nobody gets excited about purchasing a budget phone or a $10 pair of flip flops. But we’ll scream and shout if we’re amongst the first to get our hands on the newest laptop or the latest bag by Louis Vuitton.
When the price is high, something tells us that the thing we’re looking at is special. That something really unique was happening during the making of this product. Probably magic? That’s why we start believing that we must value this product more than everything else. That we must cherish and polish it. And of course, share it on social media.
While cheap things are always things we’ll shop and need, we don’t pay special attention to them and we don’t consider them important. They are simply stuff for us. Sometimes we don’t even use them. We buy them and leave them to collect dust.
But when the price is high and when the thing we’re looking at is slick and well presented, people will immediately think that what you have there is a gem worth checking. That’s why people value what they pay for. If it’s free or cheap, the masses will simply think it’s not good enough and ignore it.
In Love With Luxuries
People love expensive items.
Just scroll through your favorite social media and chances are you’ll see people boasting about their new expensive phone, bag, shoes, car, or CBD-infused sports bra.
Overpriced stuff seem important and worth daydreaming about because this was the norm for centuries. It’s like a narrative we all inherited from our ancestors. Expensive equals quality in our heads. But not only. There is something else that is making you wet your pants every time a shiny object enters your orbit – the feeling of superiority.
Except for pricing their stuff really high, brands like Prada, Apple, Porsche are doing something else. They place and present their products like they are above all else.
The main goal?
They want to tell you a story. A tale that will potentially make you spend a month’s salary on a single item. They want to convince you that buying their product is making you better than the others. That you are special and unique. “Hey man, you’re not special if you don’t have a Gucci purse. Go get one. Once you do, you’ll be special.”
And boy oh boy, does this work.
We all want to feel special. Especially people who are a little more ego-driven. People who already think they are better than the rest.
Luxury brands imply superior quality and level of status. And status is what we all chase – consciously or subconsciously. When the product you offer is more expensive and it’s a representation of prestige, a mob of hungry for attention folks will knock on your door throwing money at you and screaming, “I want to feel special!”
But there is even more to that…
We’re Hooked In Conspicuous Consumption
We love when we wear brands that represent luxury and wealth. When we put our Gucci belt and we tug our shirt in so everyone can see the iconic GG logo. We do that because we’re obsessed with conspicuous consumption.
In essence, conspicuous consumption means buying expensive items that indicate a position of status and wealth but are not essential to one’s survival. It’s having what you absolutely don’t need but the thing you get indicates certain symbols to society of status. By wearing this you’re saying, “Look at me, I have money and I’m super cool.”
It’s a term coined by sociologist and economist Thorstein Veblen. He actually outlined this defect in our buying process back in 1899. A time when social media didn’t even exist. And as you probably can figure out on your own, since now having a stable social media presence is quite popular, conspicuous consumption is the reason we buy most of the things we own today.
Whether you admit it or not, around 95% of the photos you share online are meant to provoke the envy of other people. This desire to appear as you’re somehow superior inspires you to spend a good amount of cash on things you sometimes can’t really afford. You do this to publicly manifest social power, prestige, glory, greatness, either real or perceived.
But again, why?
It’s simply human nature. Nothing really fancy. Our survival instinct, the most powerful drive, is making us desire attention, prestige, and to publicly display social status in front of others.
Like in the animal world, where the peacock with the nicest feathers is most likely to get a date.
We want to feel superior and worthy. Accepted and liked. While this behavior pattern can be clearly seen in people with inflated egos, it’s also present in people with the opposing behavior – people with low self-esteem. While the first group simply buys stuff so they can complete their image of superiority, the second group fills their wardrobe with branded bags and $100 slippers to lift their mood and feel like they are better.
Does buying expensive shit make you feel good?
Are there any negative consequences?
A lot. Not only you’re stuffing your home with things but your values are also damaged. We become obsessed, money-driven zombies who care only about likes and stuff instead of doing work that can potentially help others.
What Can We Do To Fix Things?
There’s no point in fighting against your feelings. It’s like trying to break a concrete wall with your bare hands. Rather, you should embrace your desire for greatness and direct it towards something more meaningful. Something that will have a positive impact on the world. The same can be done if you’re feeling insecure.
Instead of acquiring more and more things that will make you look cool and feel better, you can do work that can help other people.
Writing a book is a good example here.
Though a lot of people write only because they want to become popular. It’s still way better than simply throwing cash for getting more stuff and sharing them on social media. People can actually learn something from your experiences if you write a book while if you simply shop around, you’re promoting shallowness that inspires a leisure type of living.
Learn to appreciate what you have and direct your desire for superiority towards things that matter. The nice to have things change nothing. They may appear cool online but they are just pieces of metal, dirty papers in your pocket, a fabric with a nice logo.
These objects don’t extend the length of one’s life even one minute. Nor help you produce better work. Quite the opposite. Expensive stuff only cloud your thinking and make you believe you’re worthy of a better life only because you’re surrounded by them.
So, don’t get fooled into thinking that your good taste or your wardrobe full of stuff will make you a superstar. These things will boost your ego for a little while but in the long run, they are nothing more but obstacles that will prevent you from feeling content with yourself.
Some Closing Thoughts
The price of an object is something that really matters for us. We see an expensive watch and we think that time will somehow be on our side when we wear it. We walk past a sports car and we immediately desire it because of the attention we’ll get if we own it.
But these things matter only in our heads.
Both cheap and expensive things are nothing more than just things. Sometimes it’s best to spend a little extra to get something of quality, other times it’s best to get that cheap knockoff or not buy anything at all. Luxury items feel special because we breathe too much life into them. We, ourselves, make them special in our heads. But they don’t really matter. What matters is the work we do. Our purpose and our drive. The things we own can simply help us produce better work, but they shouldn’t be our main focus of attention.
What about you? Are you too obsessed like most people about stuff or you’re capable of directing your emotions towards something more important?